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New ABA Resolution Urges Lawyers to Set Standard for Civil Discourse

My inbox has been buzzing lately with news about the American Bar Association’s newly-adopted Resolution 108. ABA and especially its Section on Dispute Resolution are really demonstrating their commitment to promoting civil discourse and civic engagement through the adoption of this Resolution.  This is big news for our field!

I received the following announcement via email from Lisa Blomgren Bingham, Keller-Runden Professor of Public Service at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

ABA House of Delegates Adopts Resolution by the Section of Dispute Resolution Urging Lawyers to Set a High Standard for Civil Discourse

On August 8th the ABA House of Delegates unanimously adopted Resolution 108 (pdf) which affirms civility as a foundation of the rule of law and urges lawyers to set a high standard for civil discourse as an example for others in resolving differences constructively and without disparagement of others.

As the country’s largest and most important professional association of lawyers, the ABA has long been a leader in promoting civility, both among lawyers and in society as a whole. During the Opening Assembly of last week’s ABA’s 2011 Annual Meeting in Toronto, President Stephen N. Zack reaffirmed the ABA’s commitment, calling on lawyers to take the lead in returning civility to the public arena and encouraged the ABA House of Delegates to adopt the Section’s Resolution. “As lawyers, we must still honor civility,” Zack said. “Words matter. How we treat others matters. The way others treat us matters, not only for today, but for generations to come.” Read more on Zack’s opening remarks.

Leadership by the Section and ABA could not come at a better time where the recent partisan political debate has left many citizens highly disillusioned with their elected officials. “Lawyers play an important role in shaping public debate in the advice to those who seek their counsel, as elected officials and other officers of government, and as leaders in their communities.” Wayne Thorpe, the Immediate Past Chair of the Section of Dispute Resolution said, “Lawyers therefore have a special opportunity to help steer public discourse back to a more civil direction.”

The Section is working to do just that and encourages all members to become engaged in the effort. The Section has created a Civility Task Force, chaired by former Section Chair Bruce Meyerson, which is currently working on projects that raise civility nationally and in local communities. If you would like to become engaged in this effort please email Section Director David Moora at david.moora@americanbar.org.

Another opportunity to become engaged is to host an event during ABA Mediation Week, October 16-22. The theme for this year’s ABA Mediation Week is “Civility and Civil Public Discourse.” ABA Mediation Week is an initiative intended to celebrate the many strides made in institutionalizing mediation as one of several appropriate dispute resolution processes, to educate lawyers, parties, public officials and the general public about mediation, and to continue to promote the use of mediation throughout the world. If you would like to become involved please contact Section Staff Attorney Matthew Conger at matthew.conger@americanbar.org.

Download Resolution 108 at this link: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/dispute_resolution/civility.authcheckdam.pdf

Sandy Heierbacher is the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). She co-founded NCDD in 2002 with her husband Andy Fluke. Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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