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As my presidency of the American Bar Association comes to an end, and as I prepare to pass the gavel to Michael S. Greco at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, I can report that my experience has been deeply rewarding and enriching. I have had the privilege of traveling throughout the country, and around the globe, representing the ABA and the legal profession. In events large and small, I am reminded of what an honor it is to be a lawyer, as well as of the responsibility we bear to our country’s justice system and to our fellow citizens. At the beginning of my term, I announced as my priority the American jury system. My effort was motivated by a twofold desire, to improve and to educate. I believed there was an opportunity to improve and strengthen our juries, which was accomplished through the excellent work of the American Jury Project in putting forth a set of 19 jury principles; and there was an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of jury service, which was accomplished though the American Jury Commission. In strengthening our jury system, we strengthen our system of justice. I believed then, as I do now, that as officers of the court, it is our obligation to be vigilant in protecting and bettering American justice. In doing so, we not only serve the citizens of our country, but we also promote and serve our profession and its best interests. I was encouraged and emboldened by the immediate response by many in the legal profession to my jury initiative. As is so often the case, what I received far outpaced what I was able to give, because I learned so much from you, my colleagues. A wonderful result of the jury initiative is that, over the course of this year, I have been engaged in exciting, dynamic conversation about our jury system and about the legal profession with people from all walks of life, representing every perspective of our nation’s conscience. In every instance, I am struck by the number and variety of ideas that are held about the jury system, and the frequency with which people want to discuss the vital role of juries not only in our justice system, but in the fabric of our country and its history. In these discussions, many-if not all-identified challenges and problems of the jury system. This I expected. But what I did not anticipate-what is perhaps the unexpected, yet most important, discovery-is that, no matter what the group, or the professional or personal backgrounds of its members, rarely does anyone express the opinion or belief that the jury system should fall to the wayside. Instead, they speak of the intrinsic value of juries to justice. In the aftermath of recent high-profile trials of defendants such as Michael Jackson, former HealthSouth Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy and former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, greater attention is being given to juries. These trials demonstrate how vital it is that we, as members of the legal profession, do our utmost to support and improve juries by ensuring that we give jurors the best opportunity and tools available to reach sound decisions. The ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials is the culmination of the American Jury Project’s year-long effort to develop and offer a road map to achieve the goal of advancing jury trials. This effort, however, is simply the beginning of a long-term commitment by the ABA. Meaningful change and improvement of any sort is achieved not through one year of intense work, but over time, with others joining in the effort. For this reason, the ABA will establish a working group to continue promoting, advising and publishing the progress being made on the vital effort of making the American jury system the best that it can be. The ABA is continuing its efforts on jury improvements because we recognize our profession’s responsibility to care for and improve our justice system, and because all of us in the legal profession have the will and the wherewithal to bring about improvements in our communities and courts, many of which can begin with improving our juries and the rendering of decisions. Supporting the judiciary Serving justice while representing the legal profession is the hallmark of the ABA presidency. This dual responsibility was brought into sharp relief during my tenure when, in the wake of the Terri Schiavo ruling, and in the weeks leading up to that decision, our nation’s courts and federal judges came under attack. At that time, it was clear to me that our courts and judiciary are in need of ardent and sustained support by the legal profession. It was this conviction that led me to respond vocally and forcefully to attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the Constitution. I am proud to have been an outspoken voice in support of our courts, our judiciary and our country’s constitutionally protected separation of powers. As a profession we have not let politically motivated attacks from the left and right, whose purpose is to win victories with narrow constituencies, pass without comment or challenge. Throughout the country, the organized bar has been a constant defender of our courts and a barrier against the erosion of their independence, the very foundation of the United States, because the independence of our courts is vital to the independence of our profession. As lawyers and judges, it is our duty to speak in support of our courts and judges; and it is our responsibility to initiate and support innovative ways to improve our justice system. As we strive to maintain judicial independence, we also work to maintain the independence of the legal profession. It is in our professional best interest, and in our nation’s best interest, that we do so. Engaging in meaningful work to maintain our professional independence is the only means by which we gain and hold the public’s trust. A key component of our trust covenant with the public is the attorney-client privilege. In October, I appointed a task force to examine the privilege, because the protection of communications between client and lawyer is a bedrock principle of our justice system, and is among the most vital characteristics of our professional independence and integrity. I am pleased that in June the task force released its report, which will come to the ABA’s House of Delegates for debate at this year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. I’m grateful to the members of the ABA for their unstinting support. I am proud to have served with others in our profession in our most-important work: defending liberty and pursuing justice. Robert J. Grey Jr. is the outgoing president of the ABA and a partner in the Richmond, Va., office of Hunton & Williams.

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