Editor’s note: Emilio Varanini is entering his second year as president of the California Lawyers Association. This month he welcomes Betty Williams, a Sacramento tax litigation attorney, as she begins her one-year term as chair of the board of representatives.
By President Emilio Varanini
and Chair of the Board of Representatives Betty Williams
Many of us are mourning the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a true icon of constitutional law. She will be especially remembered for generations to come for her crucial role in advancing the constitutional guarantee of equal rights both before ascending the bench and during her years serving on the bench of the United States Supreme Court.
In our view, the best way to celebrate the legacy of this American hero is by continuing her groundbreaking work. Remember what Justice Ginsburg taught us: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Her friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose viewpoint on legal issues often differed from hers, was a testimony to that philosophy. CLA is proud to carry on her work on several fronts.
Enhancing Civic Engagement
What better way to celebrate the life of an ardent feminist and constitutional scholar than by commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Our Civic Engagement and Outreach (CEO) Committee led by Jerrilyn Malana is recognizing this milestone by:
- Providing a Toolkit for Teachers and Lawyer Volunteers Women’s Right To Vote Toolkit to provide the history and significance of the 19th Amendment to fifth graders.
- Co-sponsoring a free Oct. 20 program featuring Justice Audrey B. Collins and Justice Lee Smalley Edmon reflecting on the significance of the 19th Amendment and women’s contributions to the public, and to the legal profession.
The CEO committee is also in the process of developing a virtual online program for fifth graders focusing on the rule of law and the important role lawyers and judges play in our democracy. It will be modeled after the student program, “No Animals Allowed,” presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Monterey. On the horizon for next year, the committee is putting together a professional development curriculum for teachers provide the tools they need to incorporate civics education into their classrooms.
We welcome your involvement. You may also follow the committee’s work on social media using the hashtag #CLACivics.
Working Toward Racial Justice
Another way we are honoring Justice Ginsburg’s legacy is by pursuing justice against systematic racism and discrimination in our society. We must eradicate racism and discrimination as a society to fulfill Justice Ginsburg’s promise of equal rights under the Constitution.
Our Racial Justice Committee, established in the wake of the death of George Floyd, is focused on four main areas of content:policy and reparations, programming, publications, and resources.
The CLA has hosted weekly town halls and other meetings on a variety of topics to address racial justice issues and systemic racism, including racial justice and intersectionality, microaggression in the courtroom, race in criminal law practice, and the nuts and bolts of police disciplinary cases, to name a few. Together, these sessions have attracted thousands of attendees.
Most recently, members of the Racial Justice Committee provided substantive and technical feedback concerning three targeted bills that Governor Newson signed into law. Namely, AB 1506 (Officer-involved shootings), AB 3070 (Jury selection), and AB 3121 (Reparations). Thank you to all of the CLA members and staff who helped make these efforts successful!
We also appreciate those who have given their time and shared their stories. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s not too late to join the conversation. Upcoming activities include:
- Diverse Lawyer Video Project to inspire diverse youth to join the legal profession.
- An Oct. 7 program, “From Prop 209 to Prop 16: Historical, Legal and Activist Perspectives on Affirmative Action.”
- An Oct. 9 program, “Reparations: More Than Financial.”
Recognizing the Importance of Pro Bono Work
Guaranteeing our rights under the Constitution requires engagement on all levels. As lawyers, we must be willing to devote some of our time to help those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer so that we may realize the constitutional promise of equal rights and access to justice for all. Pro Bono week is coming up October 25-31; in anticipation of that week, please learn how you can contribute by reviewing CLA’s volunteer opportunities.
Justice Ginsburg set a shining example for us as legal professionals. Let us now honor that example as we move forward to meet our mission of diversity and inclusion, fairness in the administration of justice, and the rule of law.