Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Fordham University School of Law Dean Matthew Diller took center stage for a conversation at the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Judicial Section Award Ceremony and Luncheon on Friday, January 19, during NYSBA’s Annual Meeting in New York City. The topic of the half-hour talk was “Threats to the Rule of Law and What We Can Do to Counter Them.”
“We are honored to have had as guests two great legal minds to discuss one of the most important issues facing our nation, the preservation of the rule of law,” said Hon. Cheryl Chambers, presiding member of NYSBA’s Judicial Section.
Over its 95-year history, NYSBA’s Judicial Section has sought to provide a forum for constructive dialogue, featuring speakers who explore issues of substantive law procedure and court administration. This is in harmony with the section’s mission to support an independent judiciary and to advance fairness, efficiency, and justice for all.
To highlight these ideals, the section presented U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier with its Distinguished Jurist Award and recognized Third Department Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry and Second Department Presiding Justice Alan Scheinkman for their contributions to the bench and bar.
Following the award ceremony, the Bharara-Diller conversation provided a venue to address our shared challenges – the men sat across from each other in wing chairs, with Dean Diller posing the difficult questions of the day and Bharara drawing on his vast experience as a lawyer and a prosecutor.
“The values of America are being tested,” said Bharara.
“What is at risk?” he continued. “Democracy works on the honor system; there are norms that we adhere to. Unless all people respect the system it’s not going to get very far. Once boundaries are pushed and norms are undermined, democracy is imperiled.”
During their conversation, Bharara and Diller noted a hopeful surge of public interest in law and civics.
Bharara observed that “never before has there been such an interest in what lawyers have to say.” “There’s more interest now in how our institutions work, how democracy works, how courts work,” he said, adding that “committed citizens want to understand how things work.”
Diller agreed, noting that “law students are realizing they can make a difference through the law.”
Known for his efforts to fight public corruption and insider trading during his time as U.S. Attorney, Bharara currently hosts a podcast, Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara, and is a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law. Bharara also co-chairs the nonpartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, at NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, with former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. The task force released a report in October 2018 titled “Proposals for Reform.”
In addition to his law school duties, Diller focuses his scholarship on social welfare law and policy.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Joan Fucillo