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First Hispanic American Prepares for American Bar Association’s Highest Office




CHICAGO, Aug. 4, 2009 – Miami lawyer Stephen N. Zack, a partner in the national law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, was elected as president-elect of the American Bar Association – the first Hispanic American to achieve that distinction.  Zack will serve one year as president-elect before taking office as president in August 2010 at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco. 


The son of a Cuban mother and American father, Zack is focused on promoting civics education, the importance of inspiring a new generation of lawyers and ABA programs that advance access to justice for everyone in the United States.  In addition, he will work to create a commission on Hispanic rights.


“I am proud to be the first Hispanic American slated to become the president of the ABA.  This country is still a land of opportunity.  I want to work as an advocate for access to justice – and also for the possibilities that can exist for all young students from all backgrounds.” 


In his speech to the House of Delegates, Zack said he will focus on “two critical areas” of the legal profession – civics education and the high cost of legal education.  He said these issues and the programs and strategies to address them will have “an impact on the profession and on future generations.”


In the coming year, Zack, who grew up in Cuba and has practiced law for more than 35 years, will work with other bar associations to develop a pilot program for an American Bar Academy to teach students about everything from making an opening statement to understanding the Bill of Rights.  The goal is to eventually enroll a small group of students – half of which would be minority students -- from every high school in the United States to participate in an educational program over the President’s Day holiday weekend.  Zack called on members of the ABA to get involved.


“Every last one of us will go in and teach these students.  We can’t wait.  We will begin to reach out to a new generation,” said Zack.


In addition, Zack said he is determined to push for a renewed focus on teaching civics education in the classrooms of America so that students truly understand why we have three separate branches of government.


“With every right that we have comes an obligation to understand those rights,” Zack said after quoting a study that revealed that most Americans cannot name the three branches of government.


His hope is that a renewed interest in civics and an understanding of the role of government will not only create a more informed citizenry, but also increase student interest in pursuing a career in law. 


Zack said a law school education must be affordable for all, otherwise, “We will become an elitist profession at a time when we must look like the people we represent.  We have an overriding obligation to make sure that a new generation can service the needs of all Americans.”


Prior to his selection as president-elect, Zack served from 2004-2006 as chair of the ABA’s House of Delegates, the 555-member body that debates and votes on issues that become official ABA policy.  The chair of the House is the second highest elected office within the association.      


More than three decades ago, Zack became an active ABA member not long after completing his law degree at the University of Florida.  He is passionate about the mission of the ABA – serving the public and legal profession by “defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession” – and believes that all lawyers have a special obligation to promote these goals and to speak out against the repression of freedom.


At the ABA, Zack has a long record of service.  In addition to his serving as chair of the policy-making House of Delegates, recent activities have included being a member-at-large of the Long Range Planning Committee of the Board of Governors, member of the Advisory Committee to the chair of the House of Delegates, member of the Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity, member-at-large of the Section of International Law and secretary of the American Bar Endowment.


Zack has served as a member of the House of Delegates since 1988, and was a Florida State delegate from 1997-2000.  He is a former member of the ABA Board of Governors (1992-1995), and was a board liaison to the Sections of Litigation and Dispute Resolution.  In addition, Zack served as president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, is a former chair of the Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services, a former member of the Commission on the Judiciary in the 21st Century and a former chair of the ABA Latin American Council.


Zack is also a founding member of the Cuban American Bar Association and a life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, which promotes justice through research on the law and its impact on society.


An active member of the Florida Bar Association, Zack has served as president of the association, president of the Young Lawyers Section and chair of the International Law Section.  He was a member of the 11th Circuit (Miami-Dade County) Judicial Nominating Committee for the Southern District, the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission’s Board of Governors and a Florida Bar Fellow.


Zack’s civic activities in Florida include special counsel to Gov. Bob Graham, chair of the State Ethics Commission of the State of Florida and member of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission.  He chaired the City of Miami Beach Charter Review Commission and the Environmental Commission for the City of Miami.  He is a former legislative aide to Rep. Claude Pepper and a former member of the Orange Bowl Committee and of the Public Health Trust.


Zack received his B.A. from the University of Florida, where he was elected to its Hall of Fame.  He has been admitted to practice in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C.; the Supreme Court of the United States; the Supreme Court of Florida; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit; and the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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