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ABA head to speak at Drake Law

Beginning March 31, Drake Law School hosts its 79th Annual Supreme Court Celebration—a tradition that honors the school’s

Paulette Brown
Paulette Brown

longstanding relationship with the Iowa Supreme Court and celebrates its rich history of academic excellence, leadership, and service.

Following two days of events including the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law dinner, Drake Law Review dinner, and the Drake Moot Court Luncheon, annual Drake Law award recipients will be honored, including the alumni of the year, at the Supreme Court Celebration Banquet and Awards Ceremony in Olmsted Center.

The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Paulette Brown, president of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the first female African-American to lead the organization.

“As president of the ABA, Ms. Brown’s work on issues related to diversity in the profession and throughout the justice system are much needed and align with our own commitment to diversity and public service,” says Law School Dean Ben Ullem. “We’re honored to have her join us in this annual celebration and share her unique perspective as president of the ABA. The chance for students, the community, the bar, and bench to learn firsthand from her experiences is invaluable.”

When Brown, a labor and employment law partner at Locke Lord LLP in Morristown, N.J., took the reins of the ABA last August, she became the first woman of color to become president of the 136-year-old organization.

In its early years, the ABA excluded African Americans from its ranks. In response, Charles Howard, a 1920 Drake Law graduate, joined 11 other lawyers in 1925 to create the National Bar Association (NBA) in Des Moines. Today, the NBA encompasses more than 40,000 African-American judges, lawyers, educators, and law students and has housed its archives at Drake Law since 2007.

Since taking office, Brown has focused on the newly created Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360. The Commission reviews and analyzes diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system, and the ABA with a goal of developing sustainable action plans.

At the ceremony marking her presidency last year, Brown stated the importance of addressing diversity in both the legal profession and the entire justice system, noting the role that racial bias plays in public confidence in the justice system. Listing names from high-profile cases of alleged police brutality—Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice—she mentioned a study that found half of young people have no confidence in the justice system.

“If we are true to our calling as lawyers, we must address this issue,” she said. “The ABA has an important role in rebuilding the nation’s confidence in our justice system. Working to eliminate bias and enhance diversity and inclusion is one of the four goals of the ABA, and it is critically important that the ABA increase its efforts at this time in our nation’s history. Our commission is up for the challenge, and will offer tangible, sustainable solutions that will have a positive impact on the perception of our justice system.”

Paulette Brown will speak at the Drake Law School Supreme Court Celebration Banquet and Awards Ceremony on Saturday, April 2, in the Olmsted Center.

Learn more about the 2016 Supreme Court Celebration here.