Reginald Turner: Leadership in law and policy

March 14, 2022 1:00:00
Kaltura Video

American Bar Association President and Michigan alumnus Reginald M. Turner will share more on his leadership at the ABA and his work on some of its most pressing issues like access to legal services and judicial reform. March, 2022.



0:00:24.6 Michael Barr: Welcome, everyone. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. It's such a pleasure to see you here as we start to gather for more in-person events and also for those of you who are joining online, welcome to our policy talks at the Ford School series, and really just my great pleasure and delight to be with you here today. I'm Michael Barr, I'm the Joan and Stanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Before handing things over to my colleague, Michigan Law School Dean, Mark West, for a formal introduction of today's guest speaker, I just wanna say a few words of thanks to our partners, the University of Michigan Law School, Poverty Solutions, our new Center for Racial Justice here in the Ford School.

0:01:08.2 MB: And of course, thank you to our partners at Detroit Public Television that are streaming this event today. Our students here at the Ford School are deeply passionate about equity and social justice, and Mr. Turner's lifetime of work dedicated to fairness and access to justice provides an inspirational example to all of them and to all of us. In his new role at the ABA, his work focuses on some of today's most pressing issues, challenges to legal services, helping refugees in Afghanistan and Ukraine, judicial reform, election integrity, and more. And so I'm very grateful to have him here today. Following President Turner's address, we're gonna move right outside to the Great Hall for a reception where President Turner has graciously agreed to connect with students, with faculty and staff in a more intimate setting. And so please save questions and a more informal interaction time for that time. I'm thrilled to be partnering on this event with my colleague, Mark West, dean of the law school. First of all, he is my dean and one of the senior deans on campus. So with that, I'd like to welcome Dean Mark West.


0:02:26.2 Mark West: Thank you, Michael. I am honored to be here today to introduce a distinguished Michigan law alumnus, a member of the class of 1987, and our friend, Reggie Turner. And I can think of no one better suited to talk with this group about leadership in law and policy. Reggie is a lawyer, an Executive Committee member at the law firm of Clark Hill in Detroit. He represents corporate and governmental clients in litigation regarding commercial employment, labor class action, and public policy matters, and he's an accomplished government affairs advocate and strategic advisor. He also is the current president of the American Bar Association, he is the 145th president, and the fourth person of color to hold the position. The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world with somewhere in the range of, you could correct me, 400,000 members. So if you think about that... To think about the big house, four big houses filled with lawyers.


0:03:24.6 MW: And significantly, it means the ABA is the national voice of the legal profession. Reggie became ABA president in August 2021, having served the previous year as President-Elect, during which time another Michigan law alum also served as president. During his time on the board, the organization has faced no shortage of unique issues as a result of the pandemic and challenges to the rule of law. Under Reggie's leadership, the ABA is especially focused on issues including access to legal services, judicial reform, election integrity, the eviction crisis, and advancing the rule of law. Public Service has long been a core part of the mission of the legal profession. Lawyers serve their clients, but we work for the larger community too. Reggie, through his lifetime service, embodies the soul of the profession, and has made volunteering and service to others a hallmark of his career.

0:04:17.1 MW: From his earliest days in the profession as a law student when he served as the President of the law school student senate, which I just learned, Reggie has served in the public and private sectors and has held many appointments. I won't mention all of them, but I wanna mention some of them because they are just so impressive. His presidential, gubernatorial, mayoral and county executive appointments include serving as a White House Fellow, as an aide to Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Henry Cisneros, during the Clinton administration, representing Detroit Mayor, Dennis Archer on the Detroit Board of Education, and serving on the Michigan State Board of Education and the Wayne County Airport Authority.

0:04:54.8 MW: In the public sector, his service also includes a term as President of the National Bar Association, the nation's oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys. He served as chair of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, served as vice-chair of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and as a member of the boards of directors of the Hudson Webber Foundation and The United Way for Southeastern Michigan. And now in the private sector, he serves on the boards of directors of Masco corporation and Comerica Inc. He helped broker the deal that saved the Detroit Institute of Arts from breaking up its collection amid the 2013 Detroit bankruptcy, and he served as the executor of the Aretha Franklin estate. So, that's about everything that a lawyer can do, and he has done it. Reggie, thank you so much for your service. Thank you for being with us today, and welcome home.



0:06:00.2 Reggie Turner: Thank you, Dean West and Dean Barr. It is really a pleasure to be here. I see some of the students who were with me earlier. And I'm sorry that you're gonna have to hear many of the talking points that I gave earlier today, but I am just so thrilled to be here and particularly to have an opportunity to give some of the thoughts that I have about legal profession to future lawyers and those who are interested in public policy as well. I think that the two professions are intertwined, and our need to support the constitution and laws of our great nation fall not only to those in the legal profession, but also to those who seek public office or serve in public office as those who have been hired as opposed to elected have an obligation to support the constitutions of our nation and our states to fulfill the goals of our great constitution and to support the rule of law and the health and safety of the public.

0:07:36.4 RT: My law school education in Ann Arbor shaped me in ways that I cannot even begin to enumerate. And the presence of the Ford School of Public Policy also provides tremendous scholarship, awareness and influence regarding the great issues of our time for students at the University of Michigan today. I'm a proud Wolverine with our Association's immediate past president, Trish Refo, making us the first two ABA presidents in succession to hail from the University of Michigan. Trish is a respected lawyer in Phoenix and a wonderful person who led our association with incredible grace and gravitas mainly from her kitchen with Zoom and a decent internet connection due to the pandemic. And I was just sharing earlier with some of the colleagues here that I was not expecting to become a bar groupie until I met Dennis Archer here at the University of Michigan. When he was president of the State Bar of Michigan, he came and visited the law school.

0:09:04.6 RT: I was president of the law school student Senate and had the opportunity to introduce him. And I had heard of him because he was a friend of my father. I hadn't met him before, but he really got my attention with his gravitas and his concern for all people and particularly for diversity and inclusion and for following the rule of law, and that has been a mentorship that continues to this day. After 30 years plus, I still call him from time to time when I have a decision to make, an important decision to make, and talk it through with him before I make a final decision, and he's always willing to listen to me and to assist me with the issues that I bring up.

0:10:04.8 RT: I mentioned Trish Refo, and she's also had a tremendous impact on my growth and development in the Bar Association, and I will always be grateful to her for having me serve as her chair of rules and calendar in the ABA House of Delegates, and that was where we really, really bonded. So again, I think some of you have heard some of this before, and I apologize 'cause I probably went a little longer in my remarks at the earlier meeting, than I should have. But I do wanna thank Bob Hirshon again for giving me that time with you, and he has been a really wonderful mentor and began his service as ABA president in 2001, just one month before the world and the legal world changed forever, after 9/11.

0:11:15.2 RT: I was grateful for the opportunity before this event to visit his class across the street in Hutchins hall, on legal ethics and professional responsibility, a subject that is core to the American Bar Association's programs and activities and who we are as a profession. Under our professional conduct codes, lawyers are officers of the court who have a duty of confidentiality to their client's affairs, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and numerous other responsibilities that enable us to provide full, frank and unfettered representation, all of which are key elements in the rule of law and democratic societies. Bob Hirshon and Trish Refo are both valued ABA colleagues and mentors to me, as I mentioned. My primary mentor in the bar, Dennis Archer, as I said, continues to be a mentor for me to this day. Some of you may not know that Dennis Archer served as Mayor of the City of Detroit, and as a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court as well.

0:12:24.8 RT: He's a giant in Michigan and in the nation. So, thanks to his guidance and to those of many of my other mentors, I've strived through my career to do justice. And as I mentioned earlier with some of the students who are here as well, I got involved in pro bono work when I was here at Michigan law school, and I had my first cases in the landlord-tenant program here at the law school clinic, helping to keep people in their homes when they were having difficulties with finances or other difficulties with their landlords. And it was very gratifying to know that I had kept the roof over the heads of many people during that time. And it's been really interesting over the course of the last couple of years, due to the pandemic.

0:13:31.3 RT: That that has been a really important... It's been really important work to do for the American Bar Association, and I'm sure that there are students here at Michigan who have been working on some of those cases too. I don't know for sure. I guess I can't be sure, but I'm confident that some of you... Raise your hand if you've done some pro bono work while here at Michigan Law School. Okay, we had a couple hands up. I hope all of you will consider doing that work. It is extremely fulfilling. It's the right thing to do. I often quote the lawyer's oath on this point, it says that, "I shall never reject from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone's course for lucre or malice," and that's my favorite part of the oath.

0:14:27.6 RT: And the biggest case... Again, some of you've heard me mention this before, but the biggest case was the University of Michigan Affirmative Action cases. I worked for four and a half years pro bono on those cases, and I was at counsel table in the US Supreme Court. My one and only appearance in the US Supreme Court was on the Gratz and Grutter cases. What we call the split decision was actually what we believe is a victory, because the rulings in those cases made it clear that the University could consider diversity, equity and inclusion in building its student body. And I look around the room and I see diversity in this room. It might not have been here had we not won that case.

0:15:19.0 RT: The role of the lawyer is to do justice. That's not the only profession for which that is an imperative. There are many others, but one of my favorite examples is Martin Luther King. He wasn't a lawyer, but he was deeply, deeply engaged in the quest for justice, and he showed us that doing justice is not reserved for the legal realm, it is much broader and much deeper, much more sacred. Quoting from Scripture, he urged us all, whatever our personal or professional calling, that "We should strive for the day when Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness, like a mighty stream." He reminded us of the need for persistence, prophesying that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

0:16:31.1 RT: The First Amendment provides that we the people have the right to assemble peacefully and petition our government to readdress grievances. We resolve our disputes peacefully most of the time, based on facts and evidence, with the guarantee of due process. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly. Might does not make right. This is justice, and it is our charge, our calling, as the prophet said, repeating for emphasis, "Justice, justice, justice, you shall pursue." The ABA's motto is, "Defending Liberty, delivering justice." Our association is the largest organization of lawyers, judges and other professionals in the world. We promote the highest standards of ethical conduct and professional excellence. We advocate for equal justice under law and the principles of an independent legal profession and judiciary that are core to the democratic rule of law. We serve our members through educational programming, publications on the latest developments in numerous practice areas, and opportunities to connect with colleagues and lead our profession on issues of law and justice with like-minded lawyers across the country and throughout the world.

0:17:54.3 RT: Our House of Delegates, with more than 600 representatives of state and major metropolitan bar associations and other legal organizations, develops detailed reports and resolutions for the ABA on a range of topics that intersect with law and policy, including criminal and civil justice, healthcare, housing, immigration and asylum, international law, human and civil rights, and many other areas. The ABA has broadened my world as no other opportunity I've had. I grew up in Detroit in a working class family. My father was a police officer and my mother was a library aide, and that means I was heavily disciplined and I read a lot.


0:18:46.7 RT: I was brought up to believe that we are all in this life together, and that each of us must treat everyone we encounter with dignity and respect. I have vivid memories of the 1967 Detroit Riot, which like others across the nation, devastated our community, and we were stroked by poverty, lack of opportunity, injustice and police brutality.

0:19:12.2 RT: After the riot, my parents sought ways to heal our troubled psyches and our minds and spirits, and so they found a cultural exchange program called "Focus Hope," which brought together city and suburban residents to break down racial barriers, and my family came to have a close relationship with a wonderful Italian-American family from St. Clair Shores, and it was transformative. They had six kids, and there were four kids in my family. We would had home and home visits, we went on picnics, and I had my first trip up North in Michigan was as a guest of the Lattanzio families, and we all jumped in their motor home, if you remember those. [laughter]

0:20:10.7 RT: And we drove up north and camped out for a few days, and it was a really interesting experience in a variety of ways for me, 'cause I had never used outdoor plumbing. [laughter] But the real lesson, the more important lesson was that... Again, we had so much in common in terms of our families and our goals and our ideals and our beliefs, and that was my first introduction to what we now call diversity, equity and inclusion, and I've tried over the course of time to fulfill the teachings that I learned from that focus hope program back in the late 1960s. Regrettably, for much of its history, the American Bar Association did not answer this calling.

0:21:04.7 RT: The ABA was founded in 1878. In 1912, the ABA rescinded the membership of a lawyer named William H. Lewis, who was the first black Assistant Attorney General, as an Assistant Attorney General, and they told him he couldn't be a member of the American Bar Association because he was an African-American. That was a long time ago, but the ABA has learned from its mistakes and has doubled down on diversity. I think many of you know about Dennis Archer or at least I've heard his name, but I had the privilege of being his law clerk when he created the first diversity entity for the American Bar Association. At that time, it was called the Commission on opportunities for diversity in the legal profession. And I would sit in his office while he would be talking to an ABA staffer named Rachel, who was working with him on that program, and it came to fruition. And today the ABA has the full panoply of diversity programs, not just for racial and ethnic diversity, but for people who are differently abled for gender identity, for women, the full panoply of diversity issues are being addressed by the ABA.

0:22:42.9 RT: And I think that those of you who are not yet ABA members, as I mentioned a little earlier, it's free for students. And there are lots of resources that are available in the American Bar Association to address the important needs of our nation. Dennis, of course, was the first person of color to be president of the American Bar Association after creating that commission, and I'm pleased to say that diversity has followed him as well, not just with me, but there have been...

0:23:36.5 RT: Now we're in our fourth, Debrah will be the fourth... I'm sorry, fifth African-American president of the ABA when she takes the gavel in August. So significant progress over the course of time. And we've had Latino Presidents, and we are going to have our first native American President to follow Debra Enix ross. Her name is Mary Smith, and that will break yet another barrier, so we are very, very, very, very committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and all these folks have been elected by the membership of the American Bar Association. So this is progress that has been long coming, unfortunately too long coming, but it's bearing wonderful fruit at this time, and...

0:24:38.9 RT: So we just need we need to keep doing what we're doing. I mentioned the Michigan affirmative action cases, but as you know, there will always be challenges and I really wanna make sure that we understand how important it is to support organizations, even if you can't be directly involved in the litigation, it's important to help fund those organizations that are doing pro bono work to meet the needs of the public.

0:25:28.7 RT: And the state bar of Michigan created a program that essentially invites every lawyer in the state bar of Michigan to contribute to the Pro bono program. You can't mandate it because it's an integrated bar and membership is mandatory, but there's a lot of pressure to do that for those 'cause... It's absolutely, absolutely important. The oath we take as lawyers says I shall never reject from any consideration personal to myself the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, and I repeat that often because it's just such an important thing. Sometimes we just we get caught up into the cycle of our daily work, which is important, but don't forget to reach out and help someone as our oath. We all took the same...

0:26:37.8 RT: Those of us who are lawyers, all took that same oath and sometimes it's easy to have it on the back seat, but I think it should always be at least in mind, if not in front of mind. The ABA also invests in the pipeline for diversity, and this legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which has been one of my favorite charities for quite a long time to ensure that there are diverse students who are getting the funds needed to go to law school. And those of you who are not lawyers or not lawyers yet, but are thinking about becoming lawyers, may wanna check into that fund as well, as you're thinking about going to law school.

0:27:44.7 RT: Just changing topics, aside from litigation on justice issues, there is also a need for reform of the criminal justice system to reduce bias and inadequacies in the system, to decrease our nations overall reliance on criminal fines and fees that disproportionately affect people of color and those in poverty and to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, particularly those that limit eligibility for housing, employment and life-sustaining assistance programs. Our environmental justice task force is bringing ABA entities together to lead on legal issues facing those who are in danger of having unhealthy environments and subsequent illness and/or death as a result of toxic substances in their atmosphere. And so that is a, it's a really important piece of the work that the American Bar Association continues to do.

0:29:19.9 RT: I talk about Dr. King quite a bit. He used to say that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And one of my favorite quotes is, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. He wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham Alabama. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Our members in the ABA are dedicated in many ways to the exercise of leadership for justice and the rule of law. This includes our education and advocacy on policy issues that not only involve the administration of justice, but are also essential to our basic rights and freedoms under law. Without question, the most fundamental of these basic rights and freedoms is the ability of all eligible individuals to exercise the right to vote freely and fairly.

0:30:36.7 RT: And we oppose any barriers to fair and open elections and subversion of the voting process. Unfounded attacks on our election systems processes and officials undermine trust in elections and our duly elected leaders. Through advocacy, education and the policies adopted by our house of delegates, the ABA continues to lead in this area.

0:31:02.0 RT: I just came back from a meeting in Washington where a group of bar associations were meeting to address a full panoply of issues that they and half of their members, and this is just a wide array of interests around the table, but there was a common understanding of the need for us to meet in Washington DC and to address issues at the highest level of government, to ensure that our nation responds to the needs of our citizens across all of the issues that I've been talking about here this afternoon.

0:31:54.2 RT: And it was my first business trip to Washington DC in a while, because of the pandemic. Having real face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill or with the agencies has been very difficult to do, and so things are opening up a bit, and I'm looking forward to getting back there soon. The ABA advocates in Washington for educational loan forgiveness which is again, one of the most important things that we need in to order to ensure that the practice of law is open to all who have interest in the profession and have the skills to get it.

0:32:52.1 RT: I'm gonna cut out a couple of these comments here, but one of the things I wanna note is that stories of each of the lawyer presidents from John Adams through Barack Obama and Joe Biden, are told in a delightful ABA book called Law Office to Oval Office. And I've had the privilege of spending a lot of time with both President Obama and with Joe Biden. Who is, if you've ever met him, you know about his bear hugs, and he's just... He loves people. He's got a heart as big as all our doors. And it's been fun to watch him doing his work as President of the United States. And of course, given where I stand right now, I have to note that Gerard Ford is just a wonderful leader, was a wonderful leader, and he stabilized his nation after Watergate. Most of you are too young to remember Watergate.

0:34:34.3 RT: But he was a wonderful calming influence in our nation after the lawlessness of his predecessor that had denied it that had divided the nation in a very polarized way. And I give him a great deal of credit, and I understand why this school is named for him. I think he's a great Michigan and a great Statesman. And with that, I'm gonna stop and answer any questions.


0:35:18.6 MB: Question from Florida.

0:35:21.2 MW: Yes.

0:35:21.5 Speaker 4: I'm Luke Jake from an associate Dean here at the sports school, and really glad to have you here. Thank you for coming. I was curious just to hear you, and thinking about the sort of theme of justice and moving towards justice. I was also thinking about holding the rule of law as a non-lawyer. I'm wondering how much there can be attention there when you think of justice. I can imagine lawyers sort of acting and having to hold the rule of law in a way that actually enforces unjust laws. Some of the laws that you're looking at fighting against, for example, or perhaps representing people that they might think are doing things that perhaps don't work towards justice, but have a legal right to do. So I wonder how you think about the legal profession or managing these values that maybe come in contention or maybe they really do? 

0:36:31.2 RT: This is a very interesting question. Lawyers have to make decisions about what kind of work. The example of criminal defendants is probably one of the most poignant examples of when a lawyer is representing a person who the lawyer either knows is guilty or suspects is guilty. But our Constitution provides the individual the right to counsel. And accordingly, there is a role for lawyers to defend even those who may have committed a crime. It's embodied in our Constitution.

0:37:20.7 RT: And that's at the kind of extreme end. But everyone in my view I believe, has the right to representation in litigation matters, whether it's in criminal litigation or landlord tenant litigation or big corporate litigation or product recalls. I think that's what the justice system is for. I think we have one of the best justice systems in the world that addresses the full panoply of issues and tries to create a level playing field, and we know the playing field is not always gonna be well...

0:38:02.0 RT: Not ever gonna be completely level because some people have more resources. Some programs and some states are weaker than others, and some are really outstanding. So there will always be some differences with respect to the quality of legal services that are available, but I believe that where there is a legal issue at stake, whether the person is guilty or innocent, or whether the corporation polluted or didn't pollute or whether the issue... Whatever the issue at hand, both sides deserve to have good representation, and that is clearly a part of our US Public Policy.

0:38:56.6 Speaker 5: Hi, my names are Ariola [0:39:06.0] ____ program. In that similar line of thinking, one thing that's always been hard for me to swallow as some of my peers when they go into corporate law, they're representing corporations being sued for polluting and all of these other things, but in a lot of civil cases, there isn't a right to representation in landlord tenant cases or other areas. So I'm just wondering, do you think the next maybe progression in our legal system to keep bending our justice to the good way is to increase who has right to presentation, regardless of financial means, especially when we know some corporations can't afford the big law firm.

0:39:45.7 RT: I certainly understand that there are gaps, which is why the ABA has so many programs to draw lawyers into doing pro bono work, and I try to lead on those matters by example. I hope this won't always be true, but I think it's probably always gonna be true that there will be some people who don't get adequate legal counsel and for a variety of reasons. Resources. Which is why, again, I donate to the programs that support free legal services for those who need them. Yes.

0:40:32.2 Speaker 6: Hi, my name is Arama [0:40:35.6] ____, I'm in Law School, and you mentioned in your remarks that the ABA is kind of taking the cowl, obviously of an issue that means large for many of us law students, which is the cost of legal education. And I'm wondering what kinds of tools do you and the ABA have to, whether it's lobbying federal government officials to reform the process of student loan granting, or try and incentivize schools to make legal education more affordable for students so that that isn't a huge financial barrier for people who wanna become lawyers.

0:41:11.8 RT: We are working on... It's kind of all of the above. First of all, the ABA has its own scholarship programs for those in need. We advocate on Capitol Hill for more programs that provide opportunities for people to come into the legal profession. So we're doing it both in terms of our own pockets, but also are urging the Government and others outside of the ABA to support these programs that give access to legal education. It's critically important. And I personally, I won't give you numbers, but I'm deeply engaged in that work. Yes.

0:41:58.6 Speaker 7: Hello, Reggie. Celeste Watkins-Hayes. Good to see you.

0:42:07.5 RT: So good, Marcy and I were just talking about you.

0:42:11.6 Speaker 7: Yes. It's great to see you.

0:42:13.0 RT: It's good to see you.

0:42:15.0 Speaker 7: Thanks for being here.

0:42:15.8 RT: Oh, it's my privilege to be here.

0:42:17.7 S7: Yeah. So I wonder if you can talk about the judges. And one of the things that becomes really prominent or the way that the ABA becomes prominent sometimes when we're talking about judicial appointments, particularly around the Supreme Court, is when the ABA takes a position on the qualifications of a judge, et cetera. And in particularly we saw that I think in the last presidential administration. So I wonder if you can talk about how the ABA uses it's role. I suspect that there is tension among the membership in terms of what the role should be.

0:42:52.9 RT: Well, we're...

0:42:56.2 S7: Zooming in on the judicial [0:42:57.3] ____.

0:42:57.8 RT: Let's just say, we're a little more comfortable right now that the ABA will have it's usual role, in the vetting of federal judges. I think that both the Biden administration and the Senate Judiciary Committee, as constituted now, understands that the ABA has a non-partisan role in this process. And it's one of the reasons why the ABA ensures that lawyers who serve on the Standing Committee of the Federal Judiciary for the American Bar Association do not give any partisan, make any partisan political donations. We want it to be a neutral arbiter as to the qualifications of those who are seeking federal judgeships. There's already a big buzz about the most recent Supreme Court nominee, and we are steering clear of making any pronunciations with respect to her nomination until after the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary does it's thorough background check and it will. The Committee will present its findings to the Senate Judiciary Committee, not on the basis of politics, but rather on the basis of the qualifications that are needed to serve.

0:44:58.2 S7: Thank you. Good to see you.

0:45:04.7 RT: Yes.

0:45:05.9 Speaker 8: I have a question that comes in from the YouTube chat, from Sara DeStefano, a first year MPP, but also a member of the Bar. One of her concerns as a young lawyer has been the lack of mentorship from older lawyers because it takes time and money. What is the ABA actively doing to ensure that new lawyers are properly supported by their more experienced colleagues? 

0:45:27.0 RT: One of the things that helped me get into the American Bar Association was just the fact that I received a scholarship to the University of Michigan, and I think I mentioned to some of the folks earlier, I worked my way through undergrad loading trucks at night at United Parcel Service, 'cause both my parents were public servants, as I mentioned earlier, and they didn't have money to put four kids through both college and grad school. So I actually worked two jobs, I loaded trucks at night, and I worked in a drug store on the weekends to pay my tuition through Wayne State University, and when I got that scholarship to the University of Michigan, it changed my life, and that's one of the reasons why I have such a soft spot for this wonderful institution, the University of Michigan.

0:46:27.3 RT: But there's always much to do, and I think we all need to consider how we can help those who need help join this profession and whether it's the legal profession or public policy generally, or frankly just about... There's always room to help this university make differences, positive differences in the lives of people who would benefit from the wonderful opportunities here on this campus. And I know that not everybody is gonna be in a position early in your careers to give a lot of money, I started giving money shortly after I graduated, very small amounts, and they've grown over the course of time, but I think it's up to all of us to ensure that the generations that come behind us, especially those people who are in need have the same opportunities that we had. Yes.

0:47:46.2 Speaker 9: Alright, after January 6th last year, there was a lot of talk about disbarred members of the bar who had been or were accused at least of advocating for violent rule of law and I know that Rudy Giuliani was disbarred from the New York State Bar, and I was just wondering how does the ABA approach this type of question, especially when dealing with figures who are so public in their profile? If you have any comment at all about that I'd be interested.

0:48:19.6 RT: Yeah, we typically don't take political kinds of positions. We get involved in pro bono litigation from time to time, but we are careful to stay in our lane, so to speak, and there are public policy cases in which from time to time, we will submit amicus briefs in order to help. But they're not necessarily briefs that will always point to a specific result in the case, but rather thoughtful issues. Often those briefs are composed with issues that we think the court may miss if they don't have an opportunity to receive the work that we do. And sometimes they are more pointed than that, and they actually do suggest a particular outcome, but it's important to... Those amicus briefs are a very important part of what we do.

[background conversation]

0:49:53.8 Speaker 10: First, thank you so much for being here. My name is Abbie Johnson, I'm a first year Masters of Public Policy Student. And you touched upon briefly, was the importance of voting rights and I wanted to know if you could share a little bit more about how the ABA is prioritizing and ensuring [0:50:07.5] ____.

0:50:15.5 RT: I've had two or three voting rights cases over the course of time as a pro bono lawyer, and have been involved in programs that support voting rights just from a proactive stance to make sure that people have the right to vote. One of the things that I learned from Dennis Archer was the importance of making sure we have free and fair elections in the US, so that's been a significant part of my career. When I was just... My first law firm after leaving the clerkship in 1989, I went to a union side labor law firm called the Sachs. Well, in those days it was called Sachs, Nunn, Kates, Kadushin, O'Hare and Waldman in Detroit. And it was a great firm, it was one of the largest union side labor firms in the nation. And then they also had an ERISA section within the firm, so I learned how to do... I learned core labor law, learned the ERISA issues, but they also were counsel to the Michigan Democratic party. And so I did my first voting rights work and redistricting work while I was at that law firm. And so it was a great experience. I think it's very interesting work to do, and it's is a great way to do some pro bono work, is to work on voting rights, access to the polls, et cetera.

0:52:24.4 RT: It's critically important, it's the bedrock of our constitution, the right to vote. So I'd encourage anyone and everyone to think about getting involved. I was actually... There's a group in Southeast Michigan right now that's working diligently on voting rights for the upcoming election, and they actually invited me to get involved, but I had to say no, which is not something I often do. But I told 'em, I explained to them, I have three jobs right now.


0:53:06.9 RT: I'm still doing client work at my law firm, I am President of the American Bar Association, and I'm doing meetings like this day in and day out, and then I'm also a special personal representative for the Aretha Franklin estate, and it's a great honor. Her family chose me to help manage the estate through its closure and I'm almost two years into that, and we're getting close to the end. But I didn't know Miss Franklin well, but she was kind to me on the times that I interacted with her. My favorite time that I interacted with her was when I was President of the Wolverine Bar Association, which is the African-American local Bar for Southeast Michigan, I invited her to the Barristers' Ball, and she came and stayed the whole night, and that was really cool. So that estate, getting three jobs, this right here going on right now. And I don't have much room for doing a lot of things. Fortunately, my wife and daughters still put up with me.



0:54:49.5 RT: Thank you.