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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to Receive
American Bar Association Medal for 2007
CHICAGO, June 28, 2007 –- United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has been chosen by the American Bar Association to receive its highest honor, the ABA Medal. He will receive the award during the ABA’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco in August.
“It will be an honor and a privilege to present the ABA Medal to Justice Kennedy,” said ABA President Karen J. Mathis. “There are so many reasons to honor this justice, including his dedication to preserving and promoting the rule of law, and his tireless work on federal sentencing reform. He deserves this honor most, however, because he singly represents the best of our profession. He is a fighter for justice and an advocate for all -- an example for every judge, every lawyer and every law professor, not just in America but all over the world.”
Mathis noted that Kennedy is the son of a solo practitioner and worked in his father's law office since the age of 10. He was a page in the California Senate in the years between fourth and eighth grade. "Love for the law is in the fabric of his character," she said, "and our world is better for it."
The ABA Medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American jurisprudence.
In nominating Kennedy for the medal, one lawyer described him as “a material and significant force in advancing the Rule of Law,” adding that his contributions to that endeavor have been “conspicuous, outstanding and significant.” In a rousing speech to ABA members at the association’s 2006 annual meeting, Kennedy noted that “half the world” had not embraced the Western idea of democracy and likened it to a jury that awaited the American legal profession to make a solid case for democracy and the Rule of Law.
He then charged the assembled lawyers to promote a Rule of Law that embodied three key principles: that the law binds governments as well as individuals, leaving no one above the law; that the law must respect the equality and dignity of all persons; and, that people need to understand the law and their rights under it. Kennedy’s speech has been widely discussed among lawyers and has been described as a “milestone” in the ABA’s effort to promote the Rule of Law.
Justice Kennedy is a member of the United Nations Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an involvement that he describes as critical to justice. He also is a member of the Institute for Historical Reconciliation, whose work involves identifying populations affected by historical conflicts and working toward mutually agreeable actions to encourage reconciliation. Although this work is at an early stage,
Kennedy said he believes its contributions will be more evident in the next few years.
Kennedy joined the Court in February, 1988, after his nomination by President Ronald Reagan. He had been serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to which he had been appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975. In addition, he had been Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in his hometown of Sacramento, CA. He continues to teach law students annually between Court terms at McGeorge's Summer Institute in Salzburg, Austria. Colleagues there report that "generations of students have universally revered his inspired teaching." Kennedy had also practiced law in San Francisco and Sacramento after earning his law degree from Harvard in 1961. He did his undergraduate work at Stanford University and studied at the London School of Economics.
Kennedy has done much to advance justice within the judicial system during his judicial career, including serving on the board of the Federal Judicial Center and on two committees of the U.S. Judicial Conference: the Advisory Committee on Codes of Conduct (as it is now known) and the Committee on the Pacific Territories, of which he was a longtime chair. He continues to teach, and has evidenced a strong interest and involvement in education by lecturing at universities and undertaking educational projects with high school students. He also serves as a key member of the ABA’s Asia Law Council.
Justice Kennedy also has provided important inspiration to the work of the ABA in regard to Federal sentencing guidelines. He addressed the ABA membership in 2003, giving what the Washington Times described as a “remarkable speech” in which he told the assembled lawyers that mandatory minimum sentences were “in too many cases…unwise and unjust,” and urged the members of the profession to put their talents to work in reforming the system. In response, the ABA created the Justice Kennedy Commission, whose report the following year contained a series of policy recommendations that have been hailed as providing a blueprint for sentencing and corrections reform. This work continues under the banner of the ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions.
The ABA Medal is given only in years when the ABA Board of Governors determines a nominee has provided exceptional and distinguished service to the law and the legal profession. Among previous recipients are legendary justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Felix Frankfurter, Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr. and Sandra Day O’Connor.
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.