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Lawyer Silence and the Rise of Authoritarianism

Lawyer Silence and the Rise of Authoritarianism
Tuesday, December 6, 2022 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
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Program Fee:
Free for Members and Non-Lawyers | $15 Non-Members
Non-lawyers please call Customer Relations at 212-382-6663 to register.  

Please Note: A final confirmation containing the Zoom link and Access Code to join the event will be sent to ALL registrants 2 hours prior to the start of the event.

The authoritarian tactics counteracted by lawyers in earlier years involved police dogs and fire hoses turned on peaceful demonstrators, the murder of civil rights workers and even children attending church, and, in the case of Latin America, disappearance, torture and murder that made no claim to legal legitimacy. But what role should lawyers today play in protecting the rule of law in America and around the world, where efforts to undermine democracy are increasingly taking place within legal systems, as well as outside of them? 

Does silence from the legal profession amount to complicity? When, if ever, is a lawyer obligated to defend democracy by deploying legal skills in defense of democratic institutions? We have already seen lawyers at the center of efforts to undermine the rule of law and faith in our electoral system. Is there a line beyond which no lawyer should go? 

This program will examine the role that lawyer silence and complicity played in the erosion of the rule of law in Germany during the 1930s, in Argentina and Chile during the 1970s, and in Hungary and other countries, including the US, in more recent years.  What lessons can the legal profession learn from those experiences as new generations of lawyers consider how best to confront today’s challenges to democratic norms?  What should be the role of bar associations, including the New York City Bar, in confronting these challenges?

Welcome and Closing: 
Marcy L. Kahn, Chair, Rule of Law Task Force

Susan J. Kohlmann, President, New York City Bar Association

Katarina Barley, Vice President of the European Parliament 
Juan Mendez, Professor of Law, American University School of Law, former Special Rapporteur on Torture, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner
Kim Lane Scheppele, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs 

Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law, American University School of Law 

Sponsoring Committee:
Rule of Law Task Force, Marcy L. Kahn, Chair

Co-Sponsoring Committees:
Asian Affairs, Dih-Lin Wong, Chair
Communications and Media Law, Matthew Schafer, Chair
Council on International Affairs, Mark A. Meyer, Chair
Council on the Profession, Melissa Colón-Bosolet & Mary Lu Bilek, Co-Chairs
European Affairs, Jonathan Halpern, Chair
Federal Courts, Richard Hong, Chair
Foreign & Comparative Law, Richard H. Langan, II, Chair
International Human Rights, Ramya Jawahar Kudekallu, Chair
Independence of Lawyers & Judges Task Force, Christopher Pioch, Chair
Professional Ethics, David Keyko, Chair
Professional Responsibility, Aegis J. Frumento, Chair
Senior Lawyers, Diane Fener & Dr. Gertrude Pfaffenbach, Co-Chairs

United Nations, Catherine van Kampen, Sophia Murashkovsky & Ervin Nina, Co-Chairs
Vance Center for International Justice, Edwin Maynard, Chair

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