ABA President Defends Policymaking Process
To The Editor:</</b>p>
Replete with inaccuracies designed to make a point, columnist Karen Lee Torre's article ("No To ABA, Yes To CBA," Aug. 10) presents anything but a balanced view. Yes, the ABA takes positions that its members bring forward. Any member may propose a position to be taken - whether liberal or conservative - and any member may advocate his or her views to convince the 555-member House of Delegates to adopt that view as policy. The Connecticut bar has seats and presents its views as do all of the other state and local bars in the country.
It is the state and local bars that historically have, and today continue to, control over 50 percent of the seats in the House of Delegates, the ABA's policymaking body. The ABA's views reflect a composite of the views of the members of the House. It is not credible to suggest that "liberals have burrowed" into all of the state and local bar organizations of the country and therefore control the policymaking body of the ABA. Indeed all who can be elected by their peers in each state are welcome - and if not elected, can obtain privileges of the floor to present their views; they need only to convince the majority.
Most significantly, the ABA is the largest voluntary professional organization in the world and indeed its membership has steadily increased. There is not any evidence to support Ms. Torre's speculation that the ABA's membership is "tanking and continuing a slide that began before the recession." Rather, the profession's numbers have increased and therefore proportionally any perceived decline is not in numbers of members, but in the percentage of the profession represented as the profession itself has grown. The ABA's membership drive is focused on increasing the diversity of the ABA's membership - an effort Ms. Torre should applaud.
Most fundamentally, Ms. Torre is incorrect about the value the ABA brings to Connecticut lawyers.
The ABA has a long and effective relationship with the Connecticut Bar Association, which does a remarkable job of serving its members. For more than a century, we have joined our voice with the CBA's to safeguard justice for our nation and to advance the interests of our profession.
Most recently, we joined the CBA in preventing the state government's raiding of Connecticut's Client Security Fund as a budget balancing action. Now, the ABA - with support from the CBA - is challenging the constitutionality of restrictions faced by bankruptcy lawyers as they counsel their clients, and is fighting the applicability on attorneys of the "Red Flags Rule" that would classify lawyers as creditors, requiring costly client notifications to prevent identity theft.
In the year ahead the ABA will continue to help lawyers and the public deal with the economic difficulties caused by the recession, and will review model rules of our profession to assure that a Hartford lawyer can deal directly and ethically with clients or adversaries around the world.
The ABA stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the CBA and state and local bars across the nation, from which many of our policies originate. To suggest that the ABA competes with state bars, as Karen Lee Torre did in her Aug. 10 article, is simply wrong.
Carolyn B. Lamm
President, American Bar Association