ABA Selects 2003 Law Day Speech Winners
CHICAGO, Feb. 2, 2004 –The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Public Education has announced the three winners of its 2003 Judge Edward R. Finch Law Day Speech Awards.
The awards, which will be presented at a Feb. 6 recognition luncheon during the ABA Midyear Meeting in San Antonio, focused on the Law Day theme for 2003: “Celebrate Your Freedom – Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties.”
The first place winner is Court TV’s Catherine Crier. The second place winner is Chief Judge William L. Gary, Second Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida. The third place winner is Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, Court of Appeals for Ontario (Toronto).
Crier’s speech, “Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties,” examined the rapidly growing politicization of judicial elections in the past 20 years. Drawing in part on her own experiences as a judicial candidate and judge at the beginning of this new era of bigger campaign spending and more aggressive campaigns, she made a compelling case that the process of selecting judges is less and less distinguishable from the electoral process for other offices.
Crier pointed out that the politicizing of elections was raising the perception that justice can be bought, a disquieting departure from the longstanding belief that courts deliver equal justice to all litigants, without fear or favor.
Her speech was given May 2, 2003, at the San Antonio Bar Association’s Law Day Luncheon.
Gary’s speech, titled “Law Week,” also looked at threats to judicial independence. While decrying negative advertising in judicial elections and other instances of politicization, he particularly deplored the underfunding of courts.
Pointing out that funding the judicial branch in Florida required less than one-half of 1 percent of the state’s budget, he said that threatened budget cuts imperiled many excellent court programs and the courts’ ability to do their job.
His speech was given at the Tallahassee Bar/Legal Aid Foundation “Law for All in the Courthouse” event, Tallahassee, Fla., May 1, 2003
In “Celebrating Freedoms and Protecting Rights,” Abella’s speech emphasized “how important it is for us as judges and lawyers to stay focused on our job of protecting rights and freedoms domestically and not to be seduced into abandoning this central pursuit because the cloud of terrorism is blocking justice’s light; and more centrally, what our responsibilities as judges and lawyers are to create and protect rights and freedoms internationally.”
Her speech was given at the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Bar Association’s Law Day Luncheon, April 22, 2003.
The Judge Edward R. Finch Law Day Speech Awards were established in 1968 by Edward R. Finch Jr. in memory of his father, a member of the ABA Adjunct Committee on Law Day and a justice of the Supreme Court of New York for many years. The goals of the awards are to expand the public’s understanding of the rule of law and appreciation of the positive role law plays in our society.
The theme for Law Day 2004 is: “To Win Equality by Law: Brown v. Board at 50.”
The mission of the ABA Division for Public Education is to promote public understanding of law and its ole in society. The division conducts conferences and seminars; publishes periodicals, books, and other resources; sponsors awards programs; and serves as a national information clearinghouse, and provides technical assistance to educators, lawyers, and others.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.