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Public Positions Policy


I. Introduction.

As part of its Strategic Plan, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (“CMBA”) established its intention to be the “Go To” organization in the Greater Cleveland area on significant matters of law and justice. Depending on the circumstances, the CMBA might publicly address such matters by taking public positions on them, or might act as a convener and catalyst to advance discussions about such matters.

In accordance with its Strategic Plan, the CMBA established the Thought Leadership Committee (“TLC”) to lead the CMBA’s efforts in this area. To be consistent in its process of considering whether and when to take public positions or to endorse or advocate for or against significant issues, the CMBA adopts the following policy and procedures.

II. Policy on Public Positions

The CMBA may take a public position or endorse or advocate for or against significant issues involving:

  • The practice of law or the legal profession;

  • The independence or integrity of the judiciary;

  • The effectiveness of or accessibility to the legal system; or

  • Public policy issues that are important and consistent with advancing the CMBA’s stated purpose of promoting the rule of law, sustaining and improving the quality of and public trust in the administration of justice and the legal profession, and enhancing Greater Cleveland through member, civic, and community service, and leadership.

The CMBA shall take a public position only if:

  • The position would further the interests of the CMBA, its members, and the community at large; and

  • The vast majority of its members would agree with the position.
    The CMBA shall not endorse candidates for public office or judicial appointments.

    This Policy does not apply to determinations that the CMBA’s Judicial Selection Committee makes as to judicial candidate ratings in connection with the CMBA’s participation in the Judicial Candidate Ratings Coalition.

III. Procedures

A. Requests

Requests that the CMBA take a public position or endorse or advocate for or against an issue (“Request”) shall be submitted to the CEO or President. If time permits, the Request should be in writing. Requests may originate from organizations, entities or individuals, and from the TLC, other CMBA committees or sections, the CEO, or President.

The Request should set forth:

  • The issue about which a public position or endorsement/advocacy is sought;

  • The person or entity making the Request;

  • Relevant background information, data, or research that would aid in considering the Request; and

  • The date or time by which the CMBA should take action.

B. Initial Review of Requests

Upon receiving or initiating a Request, the CEO and President together shall initially determine whether the Request clearly fails to meet the requirements of Section II of this Policy. If the Request clearly fails to meet these requirements, the CEO will so advise the person or entity making the Request.

C. Determination of Whether a Previously Prepared Position is Appropriate

If the Request does not clearly fail to meet the requirements of Section II of this Policy, the CEO and President shall determine whether a public position previously prepared and approved by the CMBA is applicable and appropriate. If so, the CMBA may take the public position as the CEO and President deem fit.

D. Rapid Response

If no previously prepared public position is applicable, the CEO and President shall determine whether a rapid response is appropriate. A rapid response may be appropriate when the CMBA should take a public position within 48 hours of the Request so that the CMBA’s public position could be relevant.

If the CEO and President determine that a rapid response is appropriate, the CEO shall timely refer the Request to the Rapid Response Team. The Rapid Response Team shall consist of the CEO, President, the TLC Chair, and two other CMBA members appointed by the President. The two members of the Rapid Response Team appointed by the President shall serve one-year terms and may serve for no more than two successive terms. The President, in determining the appointments of these two members, should consider the diversity of thought within the CMBA’s membership.

Subject to the requirements of Section II above, the Rapid Response Team may determine that the CMBA should timely take a public position if:

  • A factually and legally accurate public position can be formulated and issued with enough speed so as to be relevant to the public discussion of the issue; and

  • The issue is of sufficient significance so as to warrant a rapid response.

A determination by the Rapid Response Team for the CMBA to timely take a public position must be by unanimous vote of the members voting. If the Rapid Response Team does not unanimously vote that a public position should be taken, the CMBA will not take a public position at that time. The Request will then be returned to the CEO unless the Rapid Response Team unanimously votes that the Request should not be further considered.

E. Non-RapidResponse

If the CEO and President determine that no previously prepared public position is applicable and that a Rapid Response is not appropriate, or the Rapid Response Team returns the Request to the CEO, the CEO shall timely refer the Request to the TLC. The TLC can also generate its own Request.

The TLC may take whatever steps it deems necessary to investigate and evaluate a Request referred to it, including, but not limited to, soliciting views and statements from persons and entities with opposing views. The TLC will attempt to determine the appropriate response to a Request within the timeframe set forth in the Request.

After completing its review of the Request, the TLC shall take a vote of the members present and determine whether the CMBA should take the public position as requested or otherwise, or to endorse or advocate for or against an issue as requested or otherwise. Upon the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members voting, the TLC will prepare (1) a proposed statement (“Recommended Public Position”); and (2) a summary of the bases for its conclusions. The TLC shall then submit the Recommended Public Position and summary to the President for action or for consideration or approval by the Board of Directors.

IV. Voting

As to any vote or decision on a Request or Recommended Public Position, whether by the CEO, President, TLC, Rapid Response Team, or Board of Directors, each of the following shall apply:

  • Any affirmative vote shall be based upon the basic premise that any position, endorsement, or advocacy will be viewed by the public as representing the position of the organized Bar in the Greater Cleveland area, and no one should cast an affirmative vote if that person believes that a vast majority of CMBA members would not also cast an affirmative vote;

  • “Attendance” at meetings of the respective bodies to consider a Request or Recommended Public Position need not be in person, and voting can be done in any agreed-upon way, including telephonically or electronically;

  • As set forth above, the vote of the Rapid Response Team must be unanimous to approve a Request; the vote of the TLC must be by a three-fourths majority. For the CMBA Board of Directors to adopt a Recommended Public Position an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members attending the meeting at which the Request or Recommended Public Position is considered shall be required; and

  • The President shall have veto power over any affirmative vote to approve a Request or Recommended Public Position, and upon the President’s veto, the Request shall be considered for all purposes as being denied.

V. Publication of Policy

A summary of this Policy and the names of the then-current members of the TLC and Rapid Response Team shall be provided to CMBA committee and section chairs, published at least annually in the CMBA Bar Journal, and included on the CMBA’s website. The CEO may consider other means of publicizing this Policy to others, as may be appropriate.

A flow chart showing the procedures that the used to consider Requests is attached to this Policy. Any inconsistency between the flow chart and this Policy shall be resolved by reference to this Policy.

Approved by TLC 5/14/18
Approved by Board of Directors 10/23/18