President's Report

President's Report - January 2019
By Cynthia McGuinn

Looking back on 2018, one of the great privileges I had as President of National ABOTA was to spend time with our chapters throughout the country. I started the year in Mississippi and ended it in Oregon. Between those geographical extremes, I traveled 112 days on ABOTA business, visiting chapters in 24 states and 37 cities. The opportunity to interact with our members and leaders was a fresh reminder of the transformative work being done by ABOTA, both as an organization, as well as by our individual members. At each stop I observed vital, committed colleagues who were engaged in activities and programs that supported the right to trial by jury before an independent judiciary and the civil, ethical, and collegial practice of law.

At the first National Board of Directors Meeting this year, I promised to work my hardest to continue the great tradition of passionate, positive, creative, collaborative and full-hearted leadership. This year we were able to focus on four clear initiatives: advancing diversity within the organization, protecting the civil jury trial system, supporting an independent judiciary, and collaborating with like-minded organizations to meet these goals. We have made great strides in meeting these objectives. 

In 2018, ABOTA had the most gender diverse leadership team in its history. Women comprised one half of our National Executive Committee, and 14 of the 22 chairs of National ABOTA Committees were women. Save Our Juries—ABOTA’s national program to provide awareness to the public of the importance of the Seventh Amendment—gained considerable ground this year. I convened special roundtables in Chicago and Dallas to discuss the state of the jury system and how we could convey to the public the importance the jury system plays in their lives. Chapter and regional leaders attended and worked together to share ideas and develop concepts. Thereafter, we consulted very talented advisors from Hill & Knowlton Strategies, Inc., a national strategic communications and consulting firm that specializes in the development of well-conceived strategic and tactical communication approaches on matters of public interest. As a result, a substantive plan and program is being developed to educate the public on the importance of their constitutional right to trial by jury, the rights it affords them and the vital role it plays in our democracy and their everyday lives. Subject to the approval of our National Board, we hope to move forward with a program in 2019.

ABOTA’s relationships with other organizations this year represent a strong investment in our collective goals. Our ongoing work with the American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable has expanded our contact with and connection to other professional organizations on both sides of the bar. We continue to educate teacher and journalist organizations through our Teachers Law School and Journalist/Media Law Schools. And we have spoken, when necessary, to protect America’s third branch of government, defending judges who are the subject of unfair attacks and who cannot defend themselves.

There are fine legal associations across the country—and ABOTA works closely with many of them. However, none can match the combination of our scope of mission and strength of membership. That is why serving as your National President has been my highest honor. Thank you for entrusting me with this job and for giving me the opportunity to serve.

How different would our world look had ABOTA not been formed 60 years ago by a small group of individuals committed to the preservation of the right to trial by jury through skilled, civil advocacy? And why has ABOTA lasted so long and thrived so well? I believe it is the result of our membership's adherence to our vision and mission and our flexibility in moving forward with the times. Our country is a better place because of ABOTA. Our communities are improved, not only by how members do their work as advocates, but by the positive influence we make on teachers, students and journalists through our educational programs, by our staunch and courageous defense of an independent judiciary, and by our efforts to save the civil jury trial.

I have deep gratitude for the work performed and effort extended by your National Board of Directors, National Executive Committee, your ABOTA Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and the ABOTA staff, all of whom have served this year with distinction in furtherance of our organization’s best interests. You will be in good hands in 2019 with Mike Maguire at the helm. I know that you will extend to him the support you have provided to me.

I wish you all a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year. And I hope for our country, that all of our leaders, in every profession, whether public and private, model ABOTA’s approach to conflict: the engagement of civil discourse and collaborative effort to address the challenges of our ever-changing world.