American Bar Association president Mary Smith calls for action as threats against judges surge

She attributed the rise in threats to false and damaging statements against judges

American Bar Association president Mary Smith calls for action as threats against judges surge

American Bar Association (ABA) President Mary Smith revealed that serious threats against judges have sharply risen, doubling since 2019.

According to Smith, in 2023 alone, 457 significant threats were made against federal judges nationwide. These threats often extend beyond the judges themselves, threatening their families and staff with harm or even death.

The rise in threats is attributed to national leaders and private citizens making false and damaging statements against judges for personal or partisan gain. According to Smith, such actions do not merely represent inappropriate behaviour as they pose a real threat to the pillars of American democracy, including judicial independence and the rule of law.

The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which bind all lawyers, expressly prohibit making false statements regarding the qualifications or integrity of judges. Furthermore, these rules encourage lawyers to actively defend the judiciary against baseless and unjust criticisms.

Reflecting on the seriousness of the issue, in 2018, the ABA Standing Committee on the American Judicial System responded by releasing a report entitled "Rapid Response to Fake News, Misleading Statements and Unjust Criticism of the Judiciary." This report calls on lawyers to correct the public record and respond robustly when the judiciary is unfairly attacked.

The ABA emphasized that bar associations must ensure that the public holds the judiciary in high regard. The organization underscored the role of judges as respected leaders within the legal system. It stressed the importance of quickly and fully countering false criticisms to maintain the judiciary’s esteemed status.

In a statement, Smith urged all members of the American Bar Association and lawyers across the country to reaffirm their commitment to preserving the nation's impartial justice system. She highlighted the responsibility of the legal profession in educating the public about the workings of the courts, the vital role of independent judges, and the necessity of safeguarding their integrity and security.

Smith also outlined actions for those who disagree with court decisions. She advised that litigants could appeal to higher courts. At the same time, the general public can engage in various forms of civic participation, such as organizing community meetings, writing to media outlets, petitioning legislative bodies, supporting citizens’ initiatives, or voting.

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