On June 9, Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis LLP’s Hon. Timothy K. Lewis presented the Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Memorial Public Interest Lecture at the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Quarterly Meeting. Judge Lewis’ provocative and emotional keynote expounded on the struggles related to racism and diversity and justice and inclusion. The speech can be viewed here.
In addressing the convergence of police misconduct, race and poverty in cities across the United States, from Ferguson to Baltimore, Judge Lewis called upon the legal profession to take the lead in a national effort to rediscover the fundamental values of equality and social justice.
“Early death, crime, unemployment, drop-out and incarceration rates in black communities throughout the country have skyrocketed. Racial profiling and other more extreme police abuses are documented again and again each week. The common factors are undeniable: these people are poor, and they are black,” said Judge Lewis.
He continued, “We can advocate for much needed, meaningful criminal justice reform, beginning with sentencing reform but including the right to counsel, prosecutorial overreach, prison reform, and a horrendously failed war on drugs… And while you’re at it, write about the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been reintroduced and is now pending, to ensure that women workers are not shortchanged, and to promote fair and stable family incomes… Support the End Racial Profiling Act, which has been re-introduced… Pressure our Senators to enact asset forfeiture reform… Tell civic and political leaders that if they want your firm’s money and support, or your vote, they need to join a national call to action for a summer youth employment program, if not this year then next.”
In his memorable speech, which addressed the continuing challenges of racism as well as the legal profession’s struggles to achieve diversity within its ranks, Judge Lewis left the audience with an urgent call to action. “We must address our own massive failure at achieving pluralism and diversity within our own ranks and at our own firms. We are the least diverse profession in America,” he said. “We deprive ourselves, our values, our economic growth and our clients by failing to recognize that ‘multiculturalism, or pluralism without walls, is the present and the future.’”
The full text of his speech can be found here.
Later in his speech, Judge Lewis took to task United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who, 8 years ago, “in reference to programs designed to redress some of this, told us that ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ This was a profound distortion and a determined misuse of American history and present-day reality. Courts should not resort to blind formalisms that convert the wise, flexible, thoughtful application of the law to some perverse algebra that takes place outside the realm of reality. I would like to believe we are better than that. Perhaps the Chief might wish to spend a little more time in the ‘hood before offering his pronouncements on how to end discrimination.”
Judge Lewis implored attorneys to contribute to this urgent moment and will themselves and their industry as a whole to act now to close the racial and social divide. Just recently, Judge Lewis played his part in social justice reform by helping to develop the legal position adopted by Governor Wolf in imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. After the moratorium was enacted, Judge Lewis also offered this statement of support.
Judge Lewis’ legal practice focuses on alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration, mediation, and other forms of settlement. He is co-chair of the firm’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Group; a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators; a board and executive committee member of the American Arbitration Association; a former board member of the CPR-International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution; a member of the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals; and a member of the CPR Diversity Task Force. Judge Lewis was recognized as the Best Lawyers’ 2015 “Lawyer of the Year” in arbitration for Washington, D.C. and recently was named one of The Legal Intelligencer’s 2015 Diverse Attorneys of the Year.
The Philadelphia Bar Association Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Memorial Public Interest Lecture was created to honor noted jurist, civil rights advocate, and author A. Leon Higginbotham.
See below for further reporting:
Law360 - Ex-3rd Circ. Judge Rips Complacency On Race Inequity