American Bar Association swears in Deborah Enix-Ross as its new president

The Debevoise & Plimpton senior adviser replaces outgoing president Reginald Turner
A headshot of Deborah Enix-Ross

New ABA president Deborah Enix-Ross

The American Bar Association has sworn in senior Debevoise & Plimpton adviser Deborah Enix-Ross as its new president, replacing Clark Hill partner Reginald Turner in the top seat.

Enix-Ross was sworn in by recently retired US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at the conclusion of the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago. She becomes the 11th female to hold that office.

Addressing the ABA’s House of Delegates ­– the association’s policymaking assembly – she said her term would focus on “on civics, civility and collaboration,” adding that “lawyers must lead the way in promoting… the cornerstones of our democracy, to restore confidence in our democratic institutions, in the judicial system and to protect the rule of law.”

She also said that “our differences are aggravated by incivility in public discourse,” and that lawyers need to model themselves on the behaviours they wish to see in society, outlining a range of initiatives across local, state and national bar level, as well as enhancing those themes within the ABA’s own work.

She pledged to encourage voluntary efforts by ABA members to monitor US state and federal elections by serving as poll workers.

Enix-Ross will also continue Turner’s work promoting public understanding of the judiciary. Recent US Supreme Court decisions have placed that court in the public gaze, both nationally and internationally.

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Turner, in his farewell address, noted the ABA’s work in supporting Breyer’s replacement as Supreme Court Justice. “Many Americans were deeply impressed by the committee’s informed, apolitical testimony on the unassailable professional qualifications of Ketanji Brown Jackson” for the Supreme Court, he said.

He added: “The sun is rising on the rule of law” in the US. “This is not a rose-coloured view or a product of denial – it’s an expression of reasonable and realistic hope.”

Enix-Ross has served in a variety of roles at the ABA, including chairing the House of Delegates, the International Law Section and founding the ABA’s Women’s Interest Network. She has also held leadership roles in the International Bar Association, where she represented the ABA.

Her firm has strong credentials in public service; Debevoise partner David Rivkin served as IBA president in 2015, with 15 partners currently holding leadership roles in that body.  

“The ABA, through its incredible breadth and influence, has the power to change and inspire the legal community as no other organisation can,” Enix-Ross said.

Her election means that for the first time, both the largest associations of lawyers in the UK and US are led by black women, with the Law Society’s Stephanie Boyce due to step down in October.

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