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Fred D. Gray Reflects Back On His Year As President Of The Alabama State Bar

The World Is Changing by President Fred D. Gray

Since I became the 126th president of the Alabama State Bar, drastic changes have occurred in Alabama, the United States of America and the world. In Alabama, the residents elected a new governor, a Republican, Bob Riley, by the narrowest margin of any gubernatorial election in the history of the state. Governor Riley, in his state of the State address, gave a vivid description of the precarious financial condition of Alabama. He said changes must be made and there must be substantial cutbacks to bring Alabama's financial house in order. HealthSouth, Alabama's largest health care facility, is in serious financial trouble and is currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The United States of America is at war with Iraq and thousands of Americans are fighting in the Persian Gulf area. We do not know when the war will end, or how much it will cost. However, many lives will be lost. We are able to see the war as it is being fought live on television.

The impact of war with Iraq is now felt in Alabama. On March 26th, Pfc. Howard Johnson, Jr., age 22, of Mobile, was the first Alabamian to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country in this war. Reserve components of the armed forces augment the active components of the United States military in the performance of military duties worldwide. Alabama ranks seventh among the states in the per-capita number of National Guard and Reserve personnel mobilized. Alabama's National Guard is one of the largest guards in the nation, numbering about 15,000. The State of Alabama has mobilized over 6,760 guard and reserve military members in support of the current war on terrorism. This includes members of the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve, and Naval Reserve. Of these, several judge advocates and Alabama State Bar members have been mobilized for active duty and have been assigned to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries throughout the world and to stateside homeland security duties. As of March 31st, 41 Alabama National Guard units have been mobilized since September 11th, 2001, and 36 were still on active duty, with many deployed to CENTCOM area of operations overseas.

The Military Law Committee of the Alabama State Bar has been very active this spring, assisting citizens and attorneys with federal, state and local laws that pertain to military members and their families during times of mobilization. "Audemus jura nostrae defendere"-- we dare defend our rights--is a phrase on the minds of many Americans these days. Active, guard and reserve judge advocates of the Alabama State Bar are continuing to support military commanders, military members and their families in these perilous times--another example of lawyers rendering service. We join Americans everywhere in supporting our military troops here and abroad.

 I am now in my ninth month as president. My, how time has flown! Carol and I have represented the Alabama State Bar across this nation. Immediately after my inauguration, we attended the National Convention of the National Bar Association in San Francisco, an association that I served as its 43rd presi- dent. We traveled to the American Bar Association meeting in Washington, DC, where we joined and met with the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents. At the meeting of the NCBP, I was elected to the executive council for a period of three years. So, I will be actively involved in the NCBP until 2005.

I was the first speaker for the first-year students at the University of Alabama School of Law during its orientation program. I challenged them to study hard, finish law school, pass the Alabama bar examination and develop into outstanding lawyers. During my presidency, I have addressed several bar associations across this state, including the Morgan County Bar Association in Decatur, the Birmingham Bar Association and Magic City Bar Association in Birmingham and the Mobile County Bar Association. Additionally, I served as keynote speaker at the Thurgood Marshall Symposium for BALSA at Cumberland Law School. We attended the Mid-Winter Meeting of the American Bar Association and the National Council of Bar Presidents, and participated in its Executive Council Meeting in Seattle. I served as keynote speaker and represented the Alabama State Bar at Faulkner University; Southern Conference of Bar Presidents in Key West; Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania; and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I addressed the Alabama Conference of Circuit Judges, participated in the Oklahoma Bar Association's Diversity Forum and delivered lectures at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Croix and St. Thomas. In addition, I have maintained an active trial practice. What I have tried to do during this bar year is to demonstrate that lawyers render service: service to their clients, service to the community and service to the profession.

In addition to our travels, I have continued to lead the bar in all of its activities. The bar commissioners approved a plan requesting the legislature to assist it in improving diversity on the board of bar commissioners, and to increase diversity in the profession. The commissioners also approved a recommendation from the Task Force on the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame to be implemented in bar year 2003-2004. In addition, the commissioners authorized the creation of a new Appellate Practice Section and adopted by-laws for that section.

The year 2003 marks the 40th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). In a landmark decision by Alabama's Justice Hugo Black, the Court held that a defendant in a state court has a right to counsel if charged with a felony. Despite the clear call of "Gideon's Trumpet," what would appear to be a fundamental right has not yet been fully implemented. While stating a right, the Court provided no means or mechanisms for funding the right. Left to their own devices, the states have been less than diligent. While the defense of indigents in Alabama has improved over the past 40 years, clearly there is much to be done. President-Elect Bill Clark is beginning plans for a Symposium on Indigent Defense next fall to try to ensure that Gideon's call does not fade. You will be receiving more information in the near future. This is another example of lawyers rendering service.

Finally, accept this as your personal invitation to join us for the 2003 ASB Annual Meeting in Mobile, July 16th- 19th. This convention promises to be one of the most outstanding in the history of the bar. The theme is Lawyers Render Service. Some of the speakers are Robert Sherman, esq., presenting "How to Persuade With More Power and Influence"; Dennis Archer, incoming president of the American Bar Association; Professor James W. McElhaney, presenting "Planning to Win: Trial Tips and Tactics"; Millard Fuller, esq., founder and president of Habitat for Humanity, Inc.; and many more.

The world continues to change, as it has done for centuries, and lawyers continue to render service, as they have done for centuries.