2021 Virtual National Convention

2021 ACS Virtual National Convention

On June 7-11, ACS celebrated its twentieth year of shaping legal debate, nurturing the next generation of lawyers, judges, and advocates, and ensuring the law is a force to improve the lives of all people. The focus of the 2021 Convention was on our Constitution’s “founding failures” when it comes to race and equality in this country, and reckoning with our past to create a more just future.


Monday, June 7

Welcome Remarks from ACS President Russ Feingold and ACS Executive Vice President Zinelle October
Panel: “Toward a Third Reconstruction”

Tuesday, June 8

Featured Speaker Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Awards Presentation
Panel: “Advancing an Anti-Entrenchment Agenda: How to Save our Democracy by Deconcentrating Wealth and Power”

Wednesday, June 9

Awards Presentation
Panel: “The Meaning, Mode, and Value of Accountability”

Thursday, June 10

Progressive Champion Award: Desmond Meade on behalf of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Panel: “The Constitution in Exile”

Career Development Session: “Promoting Progress: Lawyering in the Biden-Harris Era”

Friday, June 11

Lifetime Achievement Award: Theodore M. Shaw
Panel: “Leadership in the Face of Hate: A Conversation in Response to Rising Anti-Asian Racism and Violence”

Featured Speaker

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Tuesday, June 8

Sec. Mayorkas

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security


Toward a Third Reconstruction

Monday, June 7

The promise of racial equality remains demonstrably unfulfilled in America. With white nationalists storming the Capitol and racially motivated violent extremism on the rise, COVID-19 ravaging communities of color, and police officers continuing to kill Black people without penalty, the past year has illuminated the myriad ways in which racism permeates every corner of our society. Calls have intensified for a “Third Reconstruction” that would both complete and expand upon the work started in the wake of the Civil War and again by the Civil Rights Movement. What would a successful Reconstruction look like and what policies must be implemented or laws enacted to make it a reality? What structural and institutional changes are necessary? What lessons can we learn from international efforts at racial healing and our own previous attempts to redress wrongs done to racial communities? And how can any of these changes become reality given our increasingly polarized society?

Adam Serwer (Moderator)
Staff Writer
The Atlantic

Maggie Blackhawk
Professor of Law

Dorothy A. Brown
Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law
Emory Law

Katherine Franke
James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia Law School

Ian Haney López
Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law
UC Berkeley School of Law

Advancing an Anti-Entrenchment Agenda: How to Save our Democracy by Deconcentrating Wealth and Power

Tuesday June 8th

Many of the key debates about the health of our democracy concern the concentration of wealth and power. Markedly unequal power in the marketplace has been coupled with the Supreme Court’s weakening of worker rights and protections and the underenforcement of antitrust law. And while institutions like the electoral college and the U.S. Senate were intednded to protect against the “tyranny of the majority,” they arguably now cement a “tyranny of the minority.” These developments have led some commentators to call for an “anti-entrenchment” agenda that would counter the cumulative effects of rising economic inequality and the capture of our political system through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the corrupting influence of “big money.” What would an anti-entrenchment agenda look like? What structural reforms are necessary and what constitutional potholes should reformers plan for so that America’s democratic promise can be realized?

Elie Mystal (Moderator)
Justice Correspondent
The Nation

Kate Andrias
Professor of Law
University of Michigan Law School
ACS Board of Academic Advisors; Faculty Advisor
ACS University of Michigan Law School Student Chapter

Josh Chafetz
Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center

Janai Nelson
Associate Director-Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Sandeep Vaheesan
Legal Director
Open Markets Institute

The Meaning, Mode, and Value of Accountability

Wednesday, June 9

Who should be held accountable for the various transgressions of the Trump administration (or a future administration that similarly transgresses), in what way, and who decides? Where legal and ethics codes are violated, such decisions may be clear, but that may not always be the case. From the former president, down through high-level officials and lower-ranking attorneys who carried out the administration’s agenda, accountability is being sought for the undermining of the 2020 election and ensuing incitement to attack the Capitol, its family separation policy, the travel ban, the attack on Black Lives Matter protesters in Lafayette Park, and much more. Are law firms and universities that hire former administration officials “laundering” their reputations? Issues to be addressed by this panel may include censure, disbarment, civil litigation, and other mechanisms for holding lawyers and public officials accountable. Following a panel, we will hold facilitated breakout sessions to continue the discussion among convention attendees.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr (Moderator)
Senior Opinion Writer
The Boston Globe

Christine Chung
Steering Committee
Lawyers Defending American Democracy

Molly Coleman
Executive Director
People’s Parity Project

Erica Newland
Protect Democracy

Rebecca Roiphe
Trustee Professor of Law, Co-Dean for Faculty Scholarship
New York Law School

The Constitution in Exile

Thursday, June 10

Progressives face a hostile federal judiciary hand-picked by Donald Trump for the next generation, and the Biden-Harris administration commission tasked with examining court reform options remains in formation. How should the progressive legal community respond to a judiciary stacked with judges that are potentially hostile to its view of the Constitution and law? Is now the time for progressives to assert our own version of the “Constitution in Exile”? Should progressives look to reduce the influence of the federal courts or identify targets of opportunity to achieve progressive gains through the courts where they exist? What other strategies are possible? This panel will address specific subject areas by way of example, such as anti-discrimination and reproductive rights, where recent changes to the Court’s composition are particularly worrisome.

David Cole (Moderator)
National Legal Director
American Civil Liberties Union
Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy
Georgetown University Law Center

Katie Eyer
Professor of Law
Rutgers Law School
Faculty Advisor
ACS Rutgers Law School Student Chapter

Jamal Greene
Dwight Professor of Law
Columbia Law School
ACS Board of Academic Advisors

Cindy Soohoo
Professor of Law and Co-Director
Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, CUNY School of Law

Franita Tolson
Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Law
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
ACS Board of Directors
ACS Board of Academic Advisors

Promoting Progress: Lawyering in the Biden-Harris Era

Thursday, June 10

Litigators and lobbyists and advocates, oh my! While many lawyers hope to, and will, serve in the Biden-Harris Administration, there are many careers progressive lawyers can pursue outside the Administration. There’s a more progressive president in office now, but there’s still plenty of work to be done to shape the future of our country. Lawyers will play a key role in promoting progress and correcting the harms done over the past four years. What jobs exist outside the Administration for lawyers who want to further progressive ideals? What other ways can progressive lawyers outside the administration influence policy decisions? How should current law students prepare for a progressive lawyering career?

Palak Sheth (Moderator)
Public Policy Manager

Andrea McChristian
Law & Policy Director
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

Estuardo Rodriguez
Principal & Founder
The Raben Group

Jeffrey Sprung
Assistant Attorney General
Washington State Office of the Attorney General

Camilla Taylor
Director of Constitutional Litigation
Lambda Legal
ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter Board of Advisors

Leadership in the Face of Hate: Responding to the Rise in Anti-Asian Racism and Violence

Friday, June 11

Hon. Grace Meng
United States Representative
6th Congressional District of New York

Goodwin H. LiuGoodwin H. Liu
Associate Justice
California Supreme Court

Hon. William Tong
Attorney General
State of Connecticut

Lorraine Bannai (Moderator)
Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
Professor of Lawyering Skills
Seattle University School of Law

2021 Awardees

Ted Shaw

Lifetime Achievement Award

Theodore M. Shaw
Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights
UNC School of Law

Desmond Meade

Progressive Champion Award

Desmond Meade
President and Executive Director, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Accepting on behalf of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition

Sharmila Murthy

Faculty Advisor of the Year

Sharmila L. Murthy
Associate Professor, Director of Faculty Scholarship and Research, and ACS Faculty Advisor
Suffolk University Law School

Adaku Onyeka-Crawford

Carliner Award

Adaku Onyeka-Crawford
Director of Educational Equity and Senior Counsel
National Women’s Law Center

Joseph Daval

Cudahy Award – Student

Joseph Daval, Yale Law School Class of 2021
The Problem with Public Charge

Andrew Hammon

Cudahy Award – Lawyer

Andrew Hammond, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law
Litigating Welfare Rights: Medicaid, SNAP, and the Legacy of the New Property

Lawyer Chapter of the Year

ACS Florida Lawyer Chapter Network
(Consisting of Tampa, South Florida, North Florida, and Central Florida)

ACS Programming Awards

ACS Washington, D.C. Lawyer Chapter
ACS Minneapolis-St. Paul Lawyer Chapter




google kirkland & ellis lieff cabraser heimann & bernstein
microsoft SEIU susman godfrey llp
wilmer hale


covington huntington NEA
Selendy & Gay sullivan & cromwell


AFSCME CCR compassion and choices
DLA Piper Jenner & Block Munger Tolles & Olson


ACLU AFT Gibson Dunn
International Brotherhood of Teamsters Jones Day outten & golden
Planned Parenthood Summit Law Group unite here


AFLCIO Brennan Center CAC
Freedom to Read Guttman Lambda Legal
latham & watkins LGBT Bar Kieve
NARAL Miller Shakman NBA
National Native American Bar Association orrick SSD&S
Sidley Stoel Rives YWCA

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CLE materials are available here (PDF).

For those who have registered for CLE credit, you must provide the two codes announced during each day’s session here in order to verify your participation and obtain your credit.

If you have a fast-approaching deadline to earn continuing legal education (CLE) credits, you can earn some by attending the ACS Convention this year for the low cost of $100.

Most states will accept between 5-6 CLE credits for this year’s ACS Convention. And since some of us have fast-approaching deadlines this summer, this is an excellent opportunity to fulfill that requirement.

Whether you need to earn CLE credits or are just looking to participate in engaging discussions, join other likeminded progressive lawyers from across the country, and reserve your spot at the Convention today.

If you have further questions about CLE, please reach out to LCEmails@acslaw.org.