George Mason American Inn of Court

The Bencher—September/October 2020

As with the rest of the world, the George Mason American Inn of Court in Arlington, Virginia, is taking steps to adapt to our new post-COVID-19 world. The September, October, and November 2020 meetings, as well as the new member orientation/mentor kick-off event, will be held virtually using a video conference platform. The virtual platform will feature separate rooms for the first hour, traditionally our happy hour/meet-and-greet time, so that mentor-mentee pairings and other small groups can meet. The full meeting and continuing legal education hour will take place with the full Inn membership. A decision about whether to hold the first three meetings of 2021 live or by video conference will be determined at a later date.

The executive committee remains committed to understanding and responding to the needs of Inn members, including financial hardships and health concerns that have arisen due to the pandemic. The Inn’s goal is to maintain membership while not sacrificing the quality of member experience. The executive committee voted to significantly reduce membership dues for all members, in recognition of both the financial impact on some members and the virtual nature of at least the first three meetings. Further decisions regarding dues will be made at a later time. In addition, the committee decided not to graduate anyone from the Inn and to accept six new members. Finally, for the first time, the committee will consider alternate forms of membership for those members who cannot actively participate in the 2020–2021 Inn season due to Covid-19–related concerns.

The George Mason American Inn of Court understands that work must be done to repair injustice and inequality in our legal system and stands united with the black community and other minorities who have historically not received fair enforcement and equal administration of justice. To that end, we plan to create programming that will help our members understand inherent bias and will include input from local leaders. We have asked our membership for suggestions on ways to address this often difficult subject. Reflecting on this past year, the November 2019 program was titled “Criminal Justice Reform in Virginia” and focused, in part, on how African Americans make up a disproportionate number of incarcerated people in the Commonwealth.