The International Bar Association’s Preserving a Free society Series

Preserving Free Society


This series of webinars, sponsored by the International Bar Association and the International Bar Association Foundation, presents a series of non-partisan discussions with former and current senior government officials and other distinguished guests on the rule of law. Guests address this vital subject by considering what the oft-used phrase ‘rule of law’ means, what is necessary to preserve and defend the rule of law, the practical consequences of not doing so, and the importance of the rule of law to the institutions, traditions, and durability of free societies.” The series is moderated by Homer Moyer, the founder and chair of the CEELI Institute and past chair of the IBA’s Rule of Law Forum.

This is the fourth event of ‘Preserving a Free Society’, a six-part series of bipartisan discussions on the rule of law that feature current and former senior government officials and other distinguished guests. Two of our guests — the Honorable David Skaggs (D-Colorado) and Secretary Ray LaHood (R-Illinois) — formerly served in the House of Representatives, where they organised the House Bipartisan Retreats, bringing together 200+ members of Congress and their families to foster relationships, promote civility, and combat polarisation that already was much in evidence during their tenure. They will be joined by acclaimed author and scholar, Norman Ornstein. Is today’s polarised Congress still capable of fully protecting the rule of law? If not, in what ways is Congress falling short, and what can be done to reverse its decline?


Hon. Kevin RuddFormer Prime Minister, Australia; President, Asia Society Policy Institute.

Lisa Grow SunProfessor of Law, Brigham Young University Law School; former Visiting Professor at Temple/Tsinghua University in Bejing; co-author of Disaster Law and Policy.

Dr. Alexandra PhelanAdjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University.

Moderator: Homer Moyer, Partner, Miller & Chevalier; Past Chair, IBA Rule of Law Forum.


Threats to the rule of law: are we at a crisis point? A generation after countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the world celebrated the overthrow of authoritarian regimes and committed themselves to building societies based on the rule of law, the rule of law has come under challenge. Recent populist surges have led to the dilution or abandonment of rule of law reforms and the values on which they were based. At this unique session, hear first-hand accounts of the warning signs, the circumstances, and the consequences of governmental actions that have undercut the independence of judiciaries, vilified the press, suppressed individual freedoms, and attacked the legal profession. How serious are these issues? Are we at a crisis point? What are the stakes, and what are the responsibilities of members of the legal profession worldwide?


Drawing on their long experience in and with the media, our guests discuss the constitutional protection of freedom of the press, the role and responsibilities of the media with respect to the three branches of government, how to ensure accountability within the media, and the issue of public trust in the media. They address the distinctions between news and opinion, whether those distinctions are maintained, bias in the media, the proliferation of media sources and outlets, accuracy and objectivity, and the impact and potential consequences of attacks on the media. Noting that the press has often been referred to as the Fourth Estate or the fourth branch of government, what roles does it play, and should it play, in preserving free societies and the rule of law?


Andrea MitchellChief Foreign Affairs Correspondent of NBC News and former Chief White House Correspondent and former Chief Congressional Correspondent for NBC News.

Lee LevineSenior Counsel at Ballard Spahr, author of Newsgathering and the Law, and considered by some to be “the greatest First Amendment lawyer in the United States.”

Jennifer RubinA journalist and lawyer, author of the “Right Turn” blog, and an opinion columnist for the Washington Post.

Moderator: Homer Moyer, Partner, Miller & Chevalier; Past Chair, IBA Rule of Law Forum. 

Our guests, having served in senior positions in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, share views on the responsibilities and limitations that the rule of law imposes on officials in the three branches of government, considering such questions as: What is the appropriate role of each branch of government in safeguarding liberty and preserving the rule of law? What must officials of each branch do to ensure that the government respects the legal limits of its own power? Day-to-day, what does the rule of law cause senior government officials to do, or refrain from doing? To what extent do unwritten rules and traditions protect free societies and reinforce the rule of law?


George J. Mitchell, Jr.Former Democratic Senator from Maine and Senate Majority Leader; Special Envoy for Northern Ireland and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.

Carla A. HillsFormer U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Ford Administration), former United States Trade Representative (George H.W. Bush Administration).

Thomas B. GriffithJudge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit (appointed by George W. Bush), former Chief Legal Officer of the U.S. Senate.

Moderator: Homer Moyer,Partner, Miller & Chevalier; Past Chair, IBA Rule of Law Forum.