A Recap of the 2006-07 Bar Year in the Assembly
By Danny Van Horn
ABA YLD Assembly Speaker 2006-07
During the 2006-07 bar year, the Young Lawyers Assembly met during the Miami Midyear meeting and the San Francisco annual meeting.
In Miami, we debated four resolutions including two written by our members. Resolutions 07M1YL and 07M2YL dealt with the voting percentage needed to pass resolutions in the Young Lawyers Assembly and in the House of Delegates. Resolutions, other than those that seek to amend the ABA Constitution or the Standing Rules of the House of Delegates, require a simple majority for passage. 07M1YL and 07M2YL sought to increase that voting percentage to 60% from 51%. The proponents of the resolutions cited the steep decline in membership market share enjoyed by the ABA and argued that the ABA needs the 60% standard to balance the Association’s roles as a trade/membership organization and an advocacy group. Those who opposed the resolutions cited to the majority rule principle that is a bedrock of American democracy and questioned whether the 60% solution was the answer to the membership concerns raised. The resolutions required a super majority to pass and narrowly failed. The debate on these resolutions was spirited and was some of the best debate that the Assembly has seen in years. Although the resolutions narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds required for passage, numerous candidates for ABA office have cited the reports filed in support of the resolutions, and sources such as the ABA Watch have published and cited them. In that light, the resolutions succeeded in advancing the debate on membership issues and spurred further discussion on a wide range of possible ways that ABA membership might be increased and strengthened.
In Miami, we also debated Resolution 112 and Resolution 107. Resolution 112 sought to support enactment of apology legislation at the state and territorial level relating to the pain, suffering, or death of a person. It would have provided that certain apologies by a medical provider or the staff of a medical provider as the result of unanticipated outcomes of medical care would be inadmissible as evidence of an admission of liability or as evidence of an admission against interest for any purpose in a civil action for medical malpractice. This resolution was introduced in response to studies that suggested that an apology from medical providers lowered the instances of malpractice lawsuits and was something that victims of medical malpractice wanted. After another spirited debate, this resolution narrowly failed based on concerns that medical providers might apologize when they should not and might go beyond the apology to make other admissions against interest. No motion to accept the negative was made and so the Assembly vote left our Division Delegates in the House of Delegates free to either support or oppose Resolution 112. Resolution 112 passed the House of Delegates.
Resolution 107 dealt with gun control and supported the traditional property rights of private employers and other private property owners to exclude from the workplace, and other private property, persons in possession of firearms and other weapons, and opposes federal, state, territorial, and local legislation that abrogates those rights. This resolution was brought in response to the acts of certain state legislatures, which enacted laws that gave individuals the right to carry weapons at work and in other facilities, open to the public. After a thoughtful debate concerning the appropriate balance between the right to bear arms and property rights, the Assembly voted to adopt Resolution 107. Resolution 107 subsequently passed the House of the Delegates.
At the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, the Assembly debated three resolutions – all written by our young lawyer members. Resolution 07A1YL sought to encourage all law schools to use audit and other non-degree programs that are already available under Standard 508 of the ABA Standards for the Approval of Law Schools to encourage those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to attend law school. This resolution was brought in response to declining enrollment in American law schools of those from underrepresented backgrounds. The idea was to increase exposure to law school by permitting students to try law school on a limited basis to see if it was right for them prior to seeking full time enrollment. Many may mistakenly think that law school is not for them. This resolution seeks to dispel that thought by providing greater access to quality looks at law school through the audit or non-degree process. Those who opposed this resolution questioned whether it would make any difference and raised concerns about whether the audit or non-degree opportunities would place additional burdens on those from underrepresented backgrounds. After a great debate, the resolution passed. It will go before the House at the 2008 Midyear meeting in Los Angeles.
We also considered Resolutions 07A2YL and 07A3YL, which dealt with the standards under which long distance continuing legal education is accepted. These resolutions encouraged the elimination of any cap on the number of hours that individuals may earn from distance education and encouraged those states that do not accept distance education to accept them. Those in favor of the resolution argued that distance education has advanced to the point that it is now the equal of in person education, that distance education is less expensive and provides greater access to a wider range of education opportunities by bringing experts to the masses. They also argued that young lawyers are comfortable with distance education and want greater access to it. Those who opposed the resolutions argued that these resolutions infringed upon states rights and could effectively water down mandatory minimum continuing legal education. After a thoughtful debate, both resolutions passed and will go before the House at the 2008 Midyear meeting in Los Angeles.
In addition to debating seven resolutions this past year, the Assembly was also lucky to have a number of ABA officers and dignitaries speak to our delegates. One such speaker was Paula Boggs, General Counsel and Secretary of Starbucks Company. Her address to the Assembly was humorous, inspirational, and dynamic. We also heard presentations from numerous ABA Sections and the ABA Market Research Department regarding the latest Pulse of the Profession Report.
We had a fantastic 2006-07 bar year in the Assembly. Special thanks to Deb Smith, ABA YLD Assembly Clerk for 2006-07, and incoming ABA YLD Assembly Speaker for 2007-08. Both Deb and I encourage all young lawyers to attend and participate in the YLD Assemblies for the Next bar year. They will take place on February 9, 2008 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles and on August 11 and 12, 2008 in New York City. Keep checking the ABA YLD web page at www.abanet.org/yld to find out how you can get involved.