American Bar Association President Linda Klein had strong words Monday for President Donald Trump.
“Let me tell you what the most important border is: It’s our Constitution and the rule of law it embodies,” Klein told the ABA House of Delegates during its midyear meeting in Miami. “We as lawyers are called upon to protect it. Make no mistake: Personal attacks on judges are attacks on our Constitution.”
Her remarks came after a weekend of tweets from Trump criticizing a federal judge who blocked his order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued the order Friday.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted.
Klein, the senior managing shareholder at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz in Atlanta, came back with a fierce retort.
“There are no ‘so-called’ judges in America,” Klein said. “There are simply judges, fair and impartial. And we must keep it that way.”
She reiterated the ABA’s role in keeping judges independent and free from political pressure — including pressure “from the president of the United States himself.” The association will continue to vet every federal court nominee to support the selection of well-qualified judges, she said.
“Let us be clear: The independence of the judiciary is not up for negotiation,” Klein said. “As lawyers, we are trained to be thinkers and leaders. … So lawyers, let’s lead. Let’s lead by promoting and protecting the rule of law.”
Klein also cheered lawyers around the country who flocked to airports where immigrants were detained after Trump signed his executive order.
She said lawyers would insist on the right to due process and legal representation, including hearings from impartial immigration judges, for those who face deportation.
The ABA launched a website, www.immigrationjustice.us, to help lawyers volunteer to support immigrants. The website, set up in just one afternoon, links to relevant law, habeas corpus resources, how-to-help guides and volunteer forms.
Klein told the lawyers gathered at the James L. Knight Center that they were, like the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, in a “defining season.”
Lawyers’ commitment to the rule of law, due process and access to justice would be key in pushing back against attacks on the Constitution, she said. Klein received a standing ovation from the House of Delegates members with her final call to heed the words of Winston Churchill.
“We are lawyers,” she said. “We took an oath, and these are our values. We will never give in. Never, never, never, never.”