National Bar Association’s new leader: Juan Thomas of Quintairos Prieto Wood & Boyer – Law News

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4 August 2017 | 5:39 pm

Chicago lawyer Juan Thomas was sworn in yesterday as president of the National Bar Association, a professional organization for African-American attorneys that historically has fought for civil rights.

Thomas, 46, is a senior attorney in the Chicago office of Quintairos Prieto Wood & Boyer and practices in family law, real estate, employment and estate planning. He previously served as national vice president and secretary of the 60,000-member organization made up of lawyers, judges, educators and law students.

Thomas said he wants the National Bar Association to confront the issues of the day, like police misconduct, voter suppression and the erosion of the rule of law.

“We’re in a moment of crisis in this country like none other before,” he said. “The rule of law is being attacked, and our sense of truth is being undermined. . . .When our democracy is at risk, it is imperative that the black legal community, and lawyers together, see this as a defining moment of our profession. We have to become the conscience of the nation.”

Today the association’s board voted to create a commission on voter suppression, meant to directly counter President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud.

Last month Thomas helped relaunch the group’s political action committee, to attempt to change laws not just through legislation and litigation, but through electoral politics.

Over his one-year term, Thomas said, he hopes to extend resources to the association’s local branches to address what are at the root local issues: police misconduct and voting rights.

The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 in Des Moines, Iowa, 18 years before the American Bar Association, the country’s largest and most powerful professional organization for lawyers, would admit black attorneys. The NBA tackled issues like professional ethics and legal education, but also wider societal problems like discrimination in housing and on public transportation.

Robert Johnson, a partner in the Chicago office of Quintairos Prieto Wood & Boyer, has known Thomas since they both attended law school at University of Illinois, and he’s “not at all” surprised to see him leading the national organization.

“I don’t know what took him so long,” he joked. “He’s passionate and committed to advancing social justice issues. He’s the right person at the right time.”

The last Chicagoan to run the National Bar Association was Vanita Banks, corporation counsel at Allstate, who served from 2007 to 2008. The first woman to lead the organization, Judge Arnette Hubbard, who served in the early 1980s, sits on the Cook County Circuit Court.



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