PHILADELPHIA — The American Bar Association on Monday nominated former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer to become president of the nation's largest legal group in August 2003.

If elected as expected, Archer would become the first African-American to lead the 400,000-member association. The ABA's House of Delegates, its policymaking body, is scheduled to vote on Archer's nomination at the ABA's annual meeting in August. He would then serve a one-year term as president-elect, after which he would serve his one-year term as president.

Archer served two four-year terms as mayor of Detroit from 1994 to 2001. After leaving the mayor's office, he was elected chairman of Dickinson Wright, a 200-person law firm based in Detroit.

Speaking after his nomination, Archer told reporters he did not think a proposal to try suspected terrorists before military tribunals "takes anything away" from President Bush, the Department of Justice or others acting in good faith.

"The reality is that we are lawyers. We believe in the rule of law. Frankly I suspect that is what terrorists hate about America . . . the fact that we can have a difference of opinion, the fact that we can express our views in a free country."

Archer said it was important for lawyers to work toward preserving the rights of individuals detained in the Sept. 11 investigations.

"While we wage our war against terrorism we must be careful to preserve the unique expression of our democratic way of life, making sure we do not unintentionally infringe upon individual rights and privileges and hold fast to what makes us great," he said.

"We must preserve the right to counsel, the sanctity of attorney client privilege, and provide fair trials to those suspected of terrorism with as much openness as possible," he said.