Letter From The President Of The New Jersey State Bar Association

2006-07-01 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

As the New Jersey State Bar Association begins its 2006-2007 term, I have set some ambitious goals aimed at helping lawyers and improving the profession and our justice system.

The legal community can benefit by increasing diversity within the ranks of lawyers. Through a new initiative, the Pipeline Task Force, the NJSBA will support efforts begun by the American Bar Association to bring the best and brightest minority students into the legal profession. This can be successful only if students of color, beginning in grade school, are encouraged to continue their education and ultimately look to the law for a career. We will work with the State Bar Foundation to incorporate this educational pipeline into its other exceptional programs. This will become a vital part of our diversity efforts.

The experience of 9/11 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made us realize that we must take steps to protect our justice system, the legal community and society from a variety of potential threats. Complacency is dangerous. Having just visited New Orleans, I saw firsthand the pervasive devastation of property and the inability of people, nine months after the storm, to reestablish basic societal and governmental functions. This underlines the necessity of acting swiftly and strongly to ensure that we are prepared for the potential disasters of tomorrow. It is a daunting challenge, but we must address it.

The NJSBA now has a Task Force on Disaster Planning that will (1) coordinate available planning and recovery information, (2) work with court system representatives on issues of mutual concern, (3) establish cooperative communication and assistance plans with neighboring state bar associations, and (4) educate lawyers about steps that can be taken now to protect themselves and their law practices in the event of a disaster. I hope the fruits of this planning effort never have to be utilized, but in light of recent history we would be foolish to ignore this critical issue.

I am very concerned about unfair and unsupported attacks on the judiciary, mounted by special interest groups, self-serving politicians and media representatives operating with private agendas, and without the benefit of all the facts. Their aim is not constructive criticism, but intimidation. Judges cannot personally defend themselves against such attacks because they are generally restricted by the Code of Judicial Conduct from responding directly. As a result, public confidence in the judiciary has been eroded, and judicial independence threatened. The very nature of our judicial process relies on judges who can dispassionately interpret and apply the law, without regard to how their decisions will be received.

The New Jersey State Bar Association will continue to respond to these unfair attacks. This will be done through letters to the editor, op-ed pieces and press releases. Individual lawyers can take similar action, and I urge you to do so. Of course, we cannot change things overnight, but even our small contribution can help maintain a strong and independent judiciary which forms the foundation of our democracy. It is the rule of law which has made our country great, and this is an essential part of that foundation.