Our Duty As Lawyers
While my practice is in Maryland, I am also a member of the Kentucky bar because I maintain a remote office in Lexington, KY. This afternoon a statement came through from the president of KBA. It is so well put and just as applicable to MD lawyers that I thought it worthy of being posted here.
The tide of history has brought the nation and our Commonwealth to a pivotal point. We all have witnessed the unleashing of pressure built up over many years that burst with the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. In the wake of the protests across the country, including strikingly in Louisville, the mission and purpose of the Kentucky Bar Association remains not only relevant, but essential. And that mission is to bear a substantial and continuing responsibility for promoting the efficiency and improvement of the judicial system. The lawyers of Kentucky have a distinguished and proud history of improving the judicial system for all citizens of the Commonwealth, and we each have a solemn and time-honored responsibility now to redouble our effort both individually and collectively to support the Constitutions of both the Commonwealth and the United States in the quest to make our justice system fair and equitable for all.
From working to end slavery in the United States and combatting the deleterious effects of Jim Crow laws, to working for enactment of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, lawyers have been central to improving our justice system. Equality is a founding principle of both our state and federal Constitutions, as well as the justice system we are charged with improving. It is that concept of equality and fairness that creates the legitimacy that is so crucial for the efficient and effective working of democratic institutions but especially our justice system. As lawyers, we must recognize there are inequalities in our justice system that erodes its legitimacy and creates the kindling for the type of protest we are witnessing today. It is our responsibility as lawyers to reform the justice system and enhance legitimacy for future generations.
The KBA has a long and sound policy of not making political statements or taking sides in legislative efforts, and I intend to stand by that commitment. But saying nothing about pernicious and persisting racial inequalities, however, is not an option. The KBA casts a wide net. Every attorney and every attorney’s opinion and beliefs are welcome here and worthy of thoughtful debate. Our members work in many ways to improve the legal and justice systems in the Commonwealth, from working to increase diversity through the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Profession Committee, supporting the Access to Justice Commission of the Kentucky Supreme Court, to tirelessly finding ways to fund the Kentucky Legal Education Opportunity program, which provides law school preparation and scholarships to first generation and underrepresented law students.
All Kentucky lawyers need to be part of the solutions to come. The conversation has already begun and tables are being set. No doubt many of our members might find themselves of differing or opposing views on reform, and that is as it should be. Nevertheless, we each need to seek seats at those tables, take part in the conversations, and work to craft the future in a workable, sustainable framework that passes legal muster and provides equal justice for all.
J. Stephen Smith, KBA President