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2027th Stated Meeting: Inaugural Distinguished Morton L. Mandel Annual Public Lecture

Watch video of this event.

On November 11th, 2015, Jonathan Fanton introduced the American Academy’s inaugural Distinguished Morton L. Mandel Annual Public Lecture. Made possible by the support and leadership of the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation, this event convened at the House of the Academy a panel of three distinguished jurists. Their conversation on issues of access to the justice system was streamed to gatherings at four locations around the country, followed by moderated discussions at all the locations. It was also livestreamed via the Web.

The event served as the 2027th Stated Meeting of the American Academy.

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy and it is my pleasure to welcome you, and to call to order the 2027th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This is the Academy’s first Distinguished Morton L. Mandel Annual Public Lecture established through a donation from the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation based in Cleveland, Ohio. It is part of the Morton L. Mandel Program for Civic Discourse and Membership Engagement, which aims to strengthen the bonds of community among the Academy’s 4,600 Fellows as we stimulate discussion of important issues with the general public.

Morton Mandel was elected as a member of the Academy in 2011. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Parkwood LLC, he well understands the original aim of the Academy to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” In making his gift, Morton Mandel said he wanted to, “expand and enhance the impact of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on how we think about ourselves in America and how we set our priorities.” We are enormously grateful to Mort for his generosity.

Recognizing the importance of our conversation this evening, we are streaming the initial panel discussion to groups of Fellows gathered in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Berkeley. When our panel concludes its presentations and as everyone attending here in Cambridge engages in an open discussion, members in other locations will have their own conversations. I want to thank Mark Kaplan for hosting the group in New York at the offices of Skadden Arps, and David Zornow, Global Head of Litigation at Skadden for moderating the conversation there. I would also like to thank Diana White, Executive Director of the Legal Assistance Foundation, for moderating in Chicago; Jane Aiken, Vice Dean at Georgetown University Law Center, for moderating in Washington; and David Oppenheimer, Clinical Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, for moderating the discussion in California.

Our program this evening concludes the first day of a two-day symposium here at the Academy on the state of legal services for low-income Americans. The symposium has been organized by John Levi, Chair of the Legal Services Corporation; Lance Liebman, the William S. Beinecke Professor of Law at Columbia Law School; and Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School. The symposium has gathered together a distinguished group of participants—federal and state judges, scholars, and legal aid providers—all of whom are concerned that we, as a nation, are failing the American citizens who are most in need of legal assistance. By some estimates, only 20 percent of all Americans who qualify for legal aid receive the kind of support and services they require.

Our meeting today explored a range of remedies from increasing pro bono work from students and law firms to mobilizing retired lawyers to using technology in creative ways to help people navigate the court system. I came away believing it is possible to make access to justice much more widely available and that the will to do so is growing.

Our topic this evening has been an interest and concern of the American Academy for many decades. Even before the provision of legal services for low-income Americans became a federal priority, in the late 1960s, Academy Fellow Paul Freund, an American jurist and law professor, wrote in a 1963 issue of the Academy’s journal Dædalus that “the provision of legal aid to the indigent” was a necessary “philanthropic service.” Like any profession which considers its function to serve the public, Freund wrote, “the legal profession must strive for, and will be measured by, three standards: its independence, its availability and its learning.”

The Academy has since sought to evaluate these three standards. Focusing on Freund’s first standard of independence, in 2008, the Academy published an issue of Dædalus entitled “On Judicial Independence,” with articles by Sandra Day O’Connor, Judith Resnik, and Margaret Marshall, which spoke to the importance of free and independent courts. In 2014, an issue of Dædalus looked at Freund’s standard of learning. That publication entitled, “The Invention of Courts,” helped us to better understand the American legal system and its issues. We will push further into the standard of learning next month with a Stated Meeting at Georgetown on “The Crisis in Legal Education.”

But tonight, we will address the third of Freund’s standards: availability. To do so, we have gathered a distinguished panel, beginning with our first speaker and moderator Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Diane is chair of the Academy’s Council and a member of our Board. She is also a member of two Academy commissions—on the humanities and social sciences, and on language learning—and has been a critical advisor and partner to me in my first years as Academy president. I am personally grateful to her for all of her hard work on behalf of the Academy and its members.

At this point, Dr. Fanton turned the program over to Diane Wood, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, and her fellow panelists.

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