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Former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer was elected to head the American Bar Association (ABA) on August 13, marking the first time an African American has held that post in the organization’s 125-year history.
Archer, 60, who will serve a one-year term as president-elect before taking the reins at the helm of the organization, says one of the first things on his agenda will be to increase the number of minorities in the ABA and the legal profession overall. Currently, only 3% of the approximate 400,000 members of the association are African American. “We are woefully underrepresented,” says Archer. “We want to make sure that lawyers of color have every opportunity to become law school deans, that they’re hired by large law firms, nurtured, and given every opportunity to succeed.”
Other matters on Archer’s platform include enforcing the ABA’s moratorium on the death penalty. The policy requires states to hold off on carrying out death sentences to check for new evidence and to seek competent counsel. Archer would also like to establish judicial independence, where states would finance state Supreme Court campaigns rather than continue to have them funded privately. According to Archer, this would reduce the chances of a candidate winning simply because he or she had the deepest pockets.
Archer served two four-year terms as mayor of the city of Detroit from 1994—2001. Since leaving the mayor’s office, Archer has been elected chairman of Dickinson Wright P.L.L.C., a 200-person Detroit-based law firm with offices in Michigan and Washington, D.C. He sits on the corporate boards of Johnson Controls Inc., Compuware Corp., Covisint, and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co.