Working to restore confidence in the judiciary

The American Bar Association recently launched a new project called “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility and Collaboration.”

The commission spearheading the initiative held its first meeting at the ABA’s recent Chicago conference and the commission chairs, Judge Adriene Nelson and William Weisenberg, also led a panel program with the National
Council of Bar Presidents to launch the effort.

Through the Cornerstones program, the ABA will encourage the legal profession to lead the way in promoting civics, civility and collaboration to restore confidence in democratic institutions and the judicial system, and to
protect the rule of law.

Nelson, an associate justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, who was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the U.S. District Court in Oregon, said that Cornerstones plans monthly programming. She said she hoped the initiative would carry on for more than a year as well.

She talked about being civil as just “trying to do as a human,” and said that a primary goal of the initiative is to get people to have productive conversations about often divisive topics.

Weisenberg pointed out the importance of promoting civil discourse at the local level, adding that “just because we disagree, it doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”

The National Council of Bar Presidents program, hosted by Jennifer Parent, past president of the New Hampshire State Bar, highlighted successful civics education programs produced by state and local bar associations. The programs proved to be very effective at reaching high school students.

Nelson stressed that these programs should serve as templates for other localities and that the Cornerstones could help in facilitating these through its website at

Cornerstones also has a downloadable guide on starting difficult conversations that can be used to develop local programming.