Since last May, The Chicago Bar Association’s primary initiative has been helping the community on the overwhelming issues of gun violence and mental health.

The CBA has sponsored many activities this year to further this initiative, such as: meeting with 19 bar association presidents to call for unity and action against gun violence; an all-day conference, “Lawyers Call to Action,” where the CBA brought together 20 community service organizations in troubled neighborhoods with 100 volunteer lawyers who offered their legal expertise to help residents with legal problems; a truancy seminar to encourage and to help parents keep their children in school; the development of a telephone hotline to provide help for student absentee issues; a meeting the Sweet Holy Spirit Church on the South Side of Chicago with Chief Judge Timothy Evans and community residents where Judge Evans provided important information about bond reform; a fundraiser for Puerto Rico hurricane victims; and a detailed conference with 13 experts in the mental health area discussing elements and solutions for mental health issues and their impact on family and loved ones. These efforts will continue through 2018.

Separation of powers; framework for freedom

The CBA is particularly concerned about the attacks on the judiciary by members of the other branches of government because of the deleterious effect on the public’s confidence in the justice system.

In 1970, Chief U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger said, “A sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people.”

It is wrong when one branch of government impugns another branch. For example, on April 25, 2017, the White House issued this news release following a court’s decision in San Francisco:

“Once again, a single district judge — this time in San Francisco — has ignored [f]ederal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the [five]-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father’s arms. … This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.”

As Ndung’u Wainaina, executive director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict in Kenya wrote in July 2017:

“While recognizing the right of elected officials to exercise their freedom of speech under the Constitution of Kenya 2010, it is grossly improper for them to personally attack members of the [j]udiciary through statements that question the dignity of the judge or imply personal bias as the basis of a judicial ruling.”

It shakes the foundation of government and violates the principle of separation of powers for one branch to criticize another as invalid, incredible or not independent.

The Chicago Bar Association will continue to speak against such attacks.