100 law deans write joint letter in defense of democracy

The American Bar Association Task Force for American Democracy unveiled a letter signed by more than 100 deans from America’s law schools concerning the training necessary for the next generation of lawyers to sustain constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

The deans’ letter comes amidst ongoing challenges and a growing sense of weariness that pervades the American public’s sentiment regarding the democratic systems.

A recent Gallup poll reveals that only 28% of U.S. adults express satisfaction with the state of democracy in the country. With that said, in 2022, a staggering 116,723 students enrolled in J.D. programs, according to the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession released last year.

“The nation’s law schools play a critical role in training the next generation of lawyers and upholding the core values of our profession,” said Heather Gerken, dean at Yale Law School and member of the task force. “Through the joint efforts as outlined in this letter, we hope to set an example for our students as we prepare them to carry our democracy forward.”

The message articulated by the deans urges students to champion the Constitution and the rule of law through avenues such as clinical work, public education and advocacy as well as makes a commitment on the deans’ part to teach our nation’s law students to disagree respectfully, be open to others’ arguments and engage across partisan and ideological divides.

Mary Smith, president of the ABA, said the nation and world are at an inflection point at home and around the globe as autocrats and dictators threaten the rule of law.

“Our democracy is under strain,” she said. “A fundamental cause of this crisis lies in the fact that many of our citizens are not educated on the rule of law and the basic principles of our democratic republic. They take democracy for granted and fail to understand that its essential freedoms can easily be lost.”

The ABA Task Force for American Democracy is embarking on a widespread effort to improve civics education to reconnect U.S. citizens with democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights principles, Smith said, noting it is critical to take action steps with immediate impact that will lead citizens to feel committed to democracy.

Smith, who created the task force at the start of her presidential term in August 2023, has concentrated on protecting democracy throughout her year.

“This letter serves as a national call to action for law schools and to remind the 1.3 million practicing attorneys in the United States of their duty to stand up for our democracy, protect the ethical standards of our profession with courage and professionalism and to inspire the next generation of lawyers,” Smith said.

Michael Luttig, retired federal judge and ABA Task Force co-chair, stressed the legal profession’s importance in the process of defending and supporting democracy and rule of law.

“Lawyers are uniquely qualified and uniquely obligated by oath to support and defend America’s democracy and rule of law and they are being called to lead. They must answer this call,” Luttig said. “The deans’ compelling letter of commitment underscores the indispensable role lawyers play in safeguarding and preserving our democracy, rule of law and our legal system.”

Luttig urges whether it’s by volunteer participation in the upcoming elections, pro bono legal services, policy advocacy or community engagement, all lawyers must find ways to fulfill their professional obligation to preserve, protect and defend America’s democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

You can read the letter here.

source: https://nationaljurist.com/national-jurist/news/100-law-deans-write-joint-letter-in-defense-of-democracy/