New president of ABA wants to aid struggling kids
Karen Mathis says helping at-risk youth, including the children of deployed troops, will be among her priorities as the new American Bar Association president.
Mathis, who spoke with the press Monday, a day before officially taking the helm of the association, also stressed the importance of preserving attorney-client privilege during government investigations of corporations.
"We cannot seek legal advice and have fear that it will somehow hurt us," she said.
During its annual convention in Honolulu, the association's House of Delegates is considering resolutions opposing government attempts to measure the level of cooperation of targets of investigations by their willingness to waive their right to communicate with their lawyers in confidence.
Mathis said she hopes to focus efforts on helping youth who are at greatest risk of falling into the juvenile and criminal justice system.
Youth in America face complex problems, including the increase in girl gangs, and schools and courts unable to deal with children who are truant or unmanageable, she said.
But lawyers can help make changes, she said.
"We can work with policy makers to change the law. We can work with the courts to help our youth before their lives slip hopelessly away and off course," she said.
A self-described "Army brat," Mathis said she is deeply concerned with the emotional and financial constraints deployments of one or both parents are putting on military families.
Mathis said she has already met with the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, and learned some of what the military is already doing to help young people.
During her year in office, Mathis said she will also establish a network to connect the up to 400,000 retiring lawyers of the baby boom generation with post-retirement service opportunities.
"Our communities will still need us when we leave the full-time practice of the law," she said.
If each retiring lawyer were to give just 50 volunteer hours per year, she said, the annual total across the nation would be 2 million hours of volunteer service to communities.