The president of the American Bar Association implored fellow attorneys Thursday to bring public awareness to a nationwide funding crisis in state courts.
"They don't really know what our courts do. We must stand up and speak out for our courts," said Bill Robinson III as he spoke to nearly 200 local attorneys at the annual Law Day luncheon for the Chattanooga Bar Association at the Sheraton Read House.
Robinson echoed comments he has made at similar events around the nation since taking over the post last August. State by state, governments are reducing funding for courts, closing some, laying off employees or cutting back on technological improvements.
He cited bar reviews showing that 42 states had reduced their budgets for courts last year and no state contributes more than 5 percent of its budget to courts.
The bar president said it's the responsibility of those in the legal profession to educate the public on the importance of the judicial branch.
"Independent, adequately funded, fair and impartial judiciary is key for constitutional democracy," he said. "Constitutional democracy is the key to freedom."
Kirby Yost, who graduated law school a year ago and recently began her business law-related practice, said the speech gave her a "hopeful and optimistic" perspective, knowing that legal leaders want to work to preserve the integrity of the court system.
Robinson's ideas are realistic and focus on the importance of the issue and "our duties as officers of the court to promote that and better it in the future," she said.