A Message from Bob Stein
The Section is continually seeking more effective ways to serve the interests of our members and involve more volunteers in our work. Both of the areas that follow are designed to do this and I invite your participation in each of them.
Following the change in leadership of the U.S. Congress, I asked Section Committee and Council leaders to identify issues they thought the Section should focus on. The over 25 responses I received were interesting and had two recurrent themes.
First, the Section should get involved in congressional oversight of matters of concern to us, and second we should work with the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office to impact legislative change.
These are not mutually exclusive.
There were a number of comments urging us to get involved in oversight relating to restoring the habeas protections stripped in the Military Commission Act. The Specter amendments seeking to restore some protections lost by only a few votes. Related to this, issues concerning surveillance, FISA, and the right to privacy also were seen as appropriate for our intervention. These are areas in which the ABA already has extensive policy, and while work has proceeded on the ABA Presidential level, there is room for more extensive work by IRR.
As for legislation, there are a number of areas in which there is existing ABA policy that might be helpful in securing legislative change. While some respondents suggested that we engage in large-scale legislative change, others cautioned that we should work incrementally, but be sure that smaller first steps can pave the way for later steps.
In addition to those issues falling within the umbrella of national security and the law; other areas that were raised dealt with:
- border security and constitutional protections;
- Native Hawaiian Sovereignty;
- privacy concerns in the health care and credit records areas;
- reproductive health services;
- Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; and
- access to the courts.
Many of these issues are already being addressed by our committees. If you would like to help committees work on one or more of these topics, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or with our Staff Director, Tanya Terrell at Tanya.TerrellCollier@americanbar.org.
Effecting Change: A Summit on Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and Social Justice
On April 16 – 17, 2007, the Section, in cooperation with state and local bar associations, will convene a national conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss, strategize, and collaborate about the pressing issues of civil rights, civil liberties and social justice.
To help bridge increased collaboration on these issues, this conference will offer participants a forum to network with other lawyers working on similar matters, identify opportunities for joint projects, discuss and debate important legal issues, and establish resources for policy development and legislative activities.
The conference format will be flexible to maximize both learning and networking opportunities while also creating avenues for continued cooperation.
Conference plenaries will feature renowned experts presenting on overarching issues such as access to the courts, privacy, and the rights of the disenfranchised. Break-out sessions will offer in-depth discussions and strategies on social and civil justice issues including health and reproductive rights, sexual orientation, criminal justice, civil liberties and national security, public education, and immigration, on the intersections among those issues, and on the interplay of civil rights, civil liberties, and social justice.
So, please save the dates of April 16 and 17. The Conference will immediately precede ABA Day in Washington, which will be held April 18-20. Visit the Section’s website at http://www.abanet.org/irr/ to register.
I hope many of you will be able to attend.