The American Bar Association, 1878-2016

The president of the American Bar Association, Linda Klein, whose slogan was “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice,” has announced its demise.

The ABA hasn’t aged well. It’s been taken over by the fragile, the intellectually weak, the dishonest, who have subverted the organization to their fantasy of social justice at the expense of the Constitution.  And now. under the “leadership” of Klein, it has publicly announced that it will fight against the First Amendment to the Constitution, the defense of free speech, and has forsaken any claim to defend liberty or support the rule of law.

To the extent anyone thought the American Bar Association could survive, Linda Klein’s announcement of its death, a brutal, painful death, ends any hope. The American Bar Association committed suicide in a disgraceful demonstration of cowardice and intellectual dishonesty. It will not be missed.


I murdered the ABA because of my feelings.

There will be no funeral. There will be no mourners. It will be buried in Potter’s Field, in an unmarked grave, where no lawyer will ever visit this blight on our profession.

50 thoughts on “The American Bar Association, 1878-2016

  1. REvers

    Twenty-nine years ago I got the free year of membership the ABA gave to newly-minted lawyers.

    I’m proud to say that I have never been a member since then.

      1. Jeff Gamso

        When I declined to renew after my free year, they offered me a special deal for low-income lawyers (that wasn’t what they called it, but that was the gist of it): Pay whatever you like. I gave ’em $10. Three years ago I was give a free year.

        So I’ve had three years of membership for a total of $10. At that rate, there are probably a whole lot of worthless organizations I’d join.

        1. SHG Post author

          In my younger years as a lawyer, when I had more of an appreciation of things to frame on my ego wall to show clients I wasn’t just a worthless punk kid lawyer, I was more inclined to join organizations even when the cost was nominal. I’m older now and more selective. Nor do I feel any need to put crap on the wall to prove my worth any longer.

          1. losingtrader

            “Nor do I feel any need to put crap on the wall to prove my worth any longer.”

            Sure. Like the Avvo rating on your website. screaming 10 of TEN. WOW.
            [clearing throat and awaiting insulting response which will be deflected by the 18 course tasting menu at Joel Robuchon by the time you respond]

  2. B. McLeod

    I’m sad to say I was a member for decades, but dropped the membership after ABA Journal arbitrarily banned me from its comment boards. Obviously the organization lost sight of its purpose at some point, and came to believe it was founded to dictate speech and opinions to lawyers everywhere. I think they will find I am not the only one who will not pay to support that mission. Membership has declined so badly, they dropped that information from the Treasurer’s report a few years ago. Now the continuing, downward spiral is only visible when ABA Journal has to release (as in its December issue) its publication and circulation numbers.

    PS – Consult the December Journal (the circulation report is in the back) and you will see the number is well under 300,000, rather than the “over 400,000” claim they throw around.

    1. SHG Post author

      Your issue with the ABA Journal comments is one thing, but different than what happened here, when an ABA president affirmatively announced the ABA’s position that free speech “cannot be tolerated.”

      1. B. McLeod

        Different, yes, but part of a progression under a common umbrella. About three years ago, ABA efforts to rigidly control speech in ABA spaces (like the Journal) became really noticeable. But it only worked in ABA’s own domain, and when lawyers went elsewhere to speak, the effort was thwarted.

        ABA soon moved on to proposed Rule 8.4(g), with the objective of forcing its speech control out into the real world, to subject all lawyers everywhere to its dictates. All language referencing First Amendment conflicts was deleted from the proposed rule and commentary, with the ABA being thereby very open in its intent that the Rule would be at the expense of the First Amendment freedoms of lawyers, law firms and, by extension, their non-lawyer staff.

        Now, before even waiting to see how they do with the Rule 8.4(g) oppression of persons in the legal services sector, Klein has pushed on to making this about suppression of all citizens’ First Amendment freedoms, everywhere.

        Of course, it’s doubly insane. It’s insane because it’s cartoonishly unconstitutional. It’s even more insane because the ABA is a cardboard Potemkin Village of nothingness, and will probably be slapped down hard even on the Rule 8.4(g) attempt, let alone this despotic war on the entire population. Her Nibs has completely lost whatever excuse for a mind she may ever have had (if any).

  3. Wilbur

    Are they still “vetting” Federal judicial candidates? Does anyone give a shit if they do? I hope El Presidente Trumpo tells them to pound sand.

    1. SHG Post author

      They have the old standing committee on judicial ratings:

      The Standing Committee rates each nominee “Well Qualified,” “Qualified” or “Not Qualified.”

      Then there’s the new committee:

      The Committee rates each nominee on “Diverse and inclusive enough,” “Too cis” and “Shitlord.”

      1. M. Kase

        This comment resulted in a spray of coffee.

        More seriously, trusting something like the ABA to lie down and die quietly seems like the wrong course of action. Enemies need to be mourned properly, if only to ensure that they stay down.

      2. Richard G. Kopf


        I have lost complete confidence in the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. That scares the hell out of me. Once upon a time, the Committee did good work in an apolitical fashion. But, I believe things have changed.

        Judge Rossiter of our court got a unanimous “qualified” rating rather than a “well-qualified” rating. For a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a past Chair of the Nebraska chapter of American College, president-elect of the Nebraska bar association, law clerk to a federal district judge (who went onto to become a Circuit judge), a member of the law review, an honors graduate from law school, and so forth, the tepid rating was unbelievable. It was complete and utter bull shit.

        Could it have been that Bob, a nominal Republican and a management-side labor lawyer, was jammed down the throat of the President because of the power of our two Republican Senators and the Democrats were mad as hell that one of theirs had not been nominated?

        I don’t care about the ABA writ large. But, the Standing Committee can still do real harm, and with the President of the ABA making idiotic statements about “hate speech” like the one you highlight I pity the poor nominee who must submit himself or herself to the Standing Committee.

        In short, don’t worry about the ABA, but don’t forget the real power of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. Be afraid, be very afraid. All the best.


        1. SHG Post author

          The only power remaining in the moribund association is the legacy belief that it is a legitimate representative of the profession. The profession needs to end that mistaken public perception, as it’s nothing more than a mouthpiece for an irrational progressive agenda.

          1. Jeff Gamso

            Oh, come on. The ABA, like most big bar associations, also provides some networking opportunities and chances to pad resumes for those who want & need those things. And it provides discounts for some things for its members.

            Rather more seriously, and this one I support though I’m quite sure others don’t, it helps recruit law firms to represent death-sentenced folk who would otherwise be left with no counsel.

            And, of course, it names the annual Blawg 100 – to which, as you note in the sidebar, Simple Justice was repeatedly named and then put in the Hall of Fame right by Honus Wagner and The Big Train. (Oops. Different Hall of Fame.)

            1. SHG Post author

              That was then, this is now. Sorry, but the Constitution isn’t a Chinese menu. It’s an all or none thing, not just the amendments you like.

            2. Jeff Gamso

              As I said before, I’m not a member. I wouldn’t pay to be a member (well, maybe $10 for 3 years). The ABA offers me nothing of value. And I don’t dispute that some of what it spouts is dangerous and some at least advocates what I think is unconstitutional.

              Does that mean the organization is worthless. or problematic across the board? I don’t think so. Just as that the folks who sit on the bench often issue rulings that are clearly (from my point of view at least) legally and constitutionally wrong doesn’t make them worthless. Sometimes they’re right, too.

              Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus is a nice maxim and sometimes a winning argument, but it ain’t always true.

              And, I repeat, I’m no fan of the ABA.

              As a complete aside, there’s no means to reply to your last reply to me, which is why this isn’t nested under it. I’m something of a techno-incompetent, but I won’t take the blame for this one.

            3. SHG Post author

              First, your complete aside: Use the last reply button. It’s totally your fault for not realizing that, you techno-incompetent.

              Second, the totality of your argument (boiled down to its substance) is “I don’t think so.” Fair enough, but not particularly persuasive. I prefer vanilla to chocolate, just in case you were wondering.

          2. B. McLeod

            Indeed, but also, courts and agencies, as well as Congress and state legislatures, need to call ABA out on its highly dubious membership claims, and force ABA to furnish verification of the standing it holds itself out as having. I think this will very quickly result in a revelation that ABA in fact has no valid basis to claim it represents the legal profession.

        2. B. McLeod

          Exposing the jiggery pokery with the “free membership” smoke and mirrors might be the way to strip the Standing Committee of its unjustifiable influence.

      3. cthulhu

        Is it to much to hope for federal judiciary appointees of nothing but shitlords from now on? C’mon, it’s almost Christmas!

  4. Alex Bunin

    Lawyers need to write and speak clearly, especially if they are acting on behalf of a national organization. However, I do not see where she says the government should limit hate speech or that she opposes “free speech.” A constitutional way to be intolerant of hate speech is to present opposing viewpoints (i.e., more speech). A bunch of lawyers went to Texas A&M yesterday to protest a speech by a guy considered to be the leader of the “Alt-Right.” They were very intolerant of him, but he still got to speak.

    1. SHG Post author

      Responding to “hate speech,” whatever that means, is a perfectly appropriate action. But that’s not what she says here, no matter how generous a reading it’s given. What she says is hate speech “cannot be tolerated.” But she doesn’t end there. She says “the ABA has committed the full force of its more than 400,000 members to fight this heinous behavior and those who support it through word or deed.”

      Putting aside that the ABA doesn’t have 400,000 members, that nobody asked them if they want to fight it, the First Amendment protects the freedom to speak.

      Just as the ACLU once defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, the only legitimate position for the ABA to take is to defend the right to free speech, no matter how much the speech offends them. Sorry, but there is no reading of this that isn’t a facial condemnation of free speech. Trying to blunt it by your anecdote doesn’t change the plain meaning of what Klein says.

      1. Alex Bunin

        If “fight” literally means to outlaw speech, then I agree. However, I do not think government censorship is the only available means to address bigotry.

        1. SHG Post author

          Our duty is to defend and protect the exercise of constitutional rights, not “cannot tolerate.” Not even “merely tolerate” is acceptable; we defend the Constitution. We fight for people’s right to exercise their constitutional rights. And this is “cannot tolerate.”

          Much as I appreciate feelings about bigotry (though hate speech isn’t bigotry), that doesn’t change the Constitution.

          1. Alex Bunin

            I suspect your post, and the majority of the comments, will not be the only negative reactions to Klein’s statement. She will either (1) clarify her position by saying the only way to be “intolerant” and to ‘fight” is to rebut those abhorrent actions and statements with speech, or (2) double-down and seek litigation and legislation against persons she disagrees with. If it is (2), I will resign from the ABA where I currently sit on the Editorial Board of their Criminal Justice Magazine.

            1. SHG Post author

              I hope the reaction gives rise to the first. I fear the second. I also fear their losing on of the few rational voices left.

    2. Sgt. Schultz

      “Cannot be tolerated”:

      allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

      As lawyers, our duty is to support and defend the Constitution, not to claim a small army dedicated to defeating it or to make excuses why it doesn’t really mean what it clearly means. Cut the bullshit. No matter how much you may personally agree with Klein about hate speech, her job as ABA president is to defend the First Amendment, not censor speech that she doesn’t like.

  5. Nicole

    She doesn’t *say* the government should…but what’s the practical effect of “commiting” lawyers and judges to fight against the first amendment? Personally, I wasn’t psyched about Trump’s flag burning tweet, so I’m not inclined to support the ABA with their mission here.

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s a lot of speech I find repugnant and reprehensible, but that has nothing to do with prohibiting speech.

    2. B. McLeod

      Of course, it isn’t really Klein. It’s whoever on the ABA Dogma Committee had their hand up the sock puppet for that occasion. “ABA President” isn’t some kind of Goddess of the Unicorns. Nobody has taken any kind of personal loyalty oath to this ditz. Klein has no ability to “commit” a single ABA member to anything. Even during the many years when I was a member, if some ABA officer had had the monumentally bad judgment to call me up and try to give me an order by virtue of his or her ABA title, it would have been a very short conversation, ending with, “. . .and THAT’S how the cow ate the cabbage.”
      * hangs up phone*

  6. pavlaugh

    Just piling on here w/r/t the 400,000 figure. It’s not just the 1-year post-grad that’s free, but also all law students. That’s probably about 160,000 people who are members by default. I struggle to see where the other quarter-million lawyers are coming from.

    1. Charles

      In 1993, membership was approximately 357k out of 846k lawyers (42%). in 2015, it was approximately 417k out of 1.3M lawyers (32%).

      Source: ABA website.

        1. B. McLeod

          Every ABA Member gets the Journal as part of the package. “Total paid and/or requested circulation” was reported in the December Journal as a monthly average of 288,951 during the last 12 months and 267,551 for the monthly issue closest to the filing date. I believe this number includes all the “free members” they have padded on.

          My basis for that belief is that I wrote this information off from a Journal shared by a colleague three doors down who gets the Journal by virtue of her gender-based free membership. (In 35 years of practice, she has never paid dues, and was badgered into accepting this free membership during the last year). As I recall, the Executive Director disclosed at the Annual Meeting that ABA had signed up some 50,000 “student members” this year under its new free membership program for students at ABA accredited law schools. Another 39,000 or so new grads would be eligible for the free first year lawyer memberships (whether from ABA accredited schools or not).

          So I think the circulation numbers disclosed in ABA Journal’s federally required certification, minus the “free members” we know about would give a real membership number somewhere around 178,551. That number, of course, does not take into account however many undisclosed thousands of members are like my colleague with the free gender-based membership.

          ABA is gaming these “member” numbers something fierce, to preserve ABA’s completely unjustifiable influence on law school accreditation, selection of judges and professional conduct rules. It is essentially a scam, and ABA should be stripped of all these special roles and forced to document how many dues paying members it actually “represents.”

      1. B. McLeod

        The numbers fairly ascertainable from their federally required certification on ABA Journal circulation are more reliable than the completely unverified and unverifiable puffery on their website.

          1. B. McLeod

            The law schools are, of course, one of the few real constituencies the ABA has left. I am sure they live in dread of a real accreditation process and real accountability for their placement claims. From their perspective, ABA has been a lover with an easy touch, plus, phonying up numbers is not something likely to offend your typical law school.

    1. wilbur

      Wow, now I recognize the occasional necessities of trigger warnings. That image is strangely unpleasant.

  7. jim ryan

    As the famous Marxist** said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”.
    **Groucho Marx
    (Sorr, Scott, I couldn’t resist the urge, and someone had to do it)

  8. Kafer

    I quit the ABA decades ago when it first took a position in abortion. My big-city firm was trying to achieve 100% membership and the pressure was on. But I couldn’t accede to forced-support of an organization opposed to my personal deeply-held view.

    1. B. McLeod

      I did not have any deep personal views on that issue, but looking back, I can see that is where the political hijacking started. It has gone down the slope now to the point that ABA is just a Democratic PAC, wrapped in the veneer of a professional association.

  9. Alex

    Unfortunately, the ABA’s death is wishful thinking at this point. State bar associations are still using its Model Rules of Professional Conduct – and if they adopt its new rule about “verbal conduct” expressing “bias,” attorneys could theoretically get disciplined for expressing controversial opinions.

    1. B. McLeod

      The financial end of things will finish ABA. The smoke and mirrors with the “membership” numbers may help mislead courts and agencies, but those legions of “free membership” holders aren’t paying any dues. ABA acknowledged some years ago that it is no longer viable as a dues-sustained organization. They have hatched this crazy notion that they are going to make up the lost dues by competing with for-profit insurance brokers, publishers, financial service providers, etc. But there is no basis to think that ABA, as a new market entrant, can do that successfully. As a “business plan,” it is nonsensical, and, once they are operating out of a station wagon, nobody will fall for the dubious “membership” claims anymore.

  10. DW Duke

    I dropped out of the ABA back in the 80s when I realized that it was nothing but a political organization designed to espouse the views of its leadership.

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