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August 01, 2012

House of Delegates adopts varied new policies at ABA Annual Meeting

A panel titled “Immigration, Race and Incarceration in the United States” featured: Lisa Marquardt, assistant public defender, Maryland Office of the Public Defender; Sara Dill, criminal defense and immigration lawyer; and broadcast journalist Maria Hinojosa. The panel was moderated by professor and immigration lawyer Margaret Stock.

Laurel G. Bellows assumes ABA presidency

The ABA House of Delegates, convening in Chicago Aug. 6 and 7 during the association’s Annual Meeting, approved an array of new policies and welcomed a new president and House of Delegates chair.

Chicago Lawyer Laurel G. Bellows accepted the presidential gavel from outgoing President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III to become the association’s president for 2012-2013. Bellows said she will focus on ending human trafficking, promoting gender equity and addressing cybersecurity issues during her presidential year (see article, page 5). James R. Silkenat assumed the office of president-elect for the year, and will become president in August 2013.

Robert M. Carlson of Montana will serve as chair of the House of Delegates for a two-year term.

Other highlights of the meeting included the awarding of the ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor, to Morris S. Dees Jr., founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and appearances by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at programs addressing opera and the law and comparative constitutional law focusing on North America and the Middle East. In addition, showcase continuing legal education sessions focused on the Nuremburg trials, health care reform cases, forensic science, voter registration issues, privacy and Facebook, and diversity in the global environment.

During its meeting, the delegates approved several recommendations of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 that amend the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and the delegates will take up additional recommendations at the Midyear Meeting in February 2013. The recommendations resulted from a three-year study of how globalization and technology are transforming the practice of law and how the regulation of lawyers should be updated in light of those developments. 

The following is a summary of policies approved by the House of Delegates.

Administrative Law

Regulatory Cooperation. Urges federal agencies to pursue regulatory cooperation with relevant foreign authorities where appropriate and consistent with their legal authority, statutory mandates and regulatory mission. Urges federal agencies to work with foreign counterparts to develop common regulatory agendas, harmonized regulatory standards, information exchanges and mutual recognition of tests and inspections; to promote core principles of sound administrative and regulatory process; and to recommend corrective legislation to Congress where there is insufficient legal authority to permit the contemplated regulatory cooperation.


Foster Care Youth. Urges lawyers, judges, child welfare and education agency administrators, educators, school regulatory bodies, and legislators to support postsecondary education for youth in foster care and those who have been in foster care.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD). Urges the legal profession to help identify and respond effectively to FASD in children and adults and urges the passage of laws and adoption of policies to better assist individuals with FASD.

Criminal Justice

Child Sexual Abuse. Urges federal, state, territorial and tribal governments to review child sexual abuse criminal statutes of limitations to determine, despite problems such as faded memory and deterioration of evidence, whether special factors – including the age of the victim, inability to report, and abuse of trust– warrant extending the statute of limitations applicable to the crimes.

Prosecutors. Urges federal, state, local and territorial prosecutors to further protect the public through the use of a broad spectrum of strategies, including efforts to assist and protect crime victims and witnesses, prevent crime and recidivism, support the use of science and technology to ensure the integrity of guilty pleas, and support additional research where needed to assure sound scientific support for forensic practices.

Criminal Defense. Urges defender organizations and criminal defense lawyers to address clients’ inter-related criminal, civil and non-legal problems through collaboration, training and provision of re-entry and reintegration services, and urges funding for these purposes.

Ineffective Counsel. Urges Congress to amend 28 U.S.C. §2254(d) to require a federal district court to review de novo, based on the record made in the federal court, claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by petitioners under sentence of death.

Domestic Violence

Tribal Jurisdiction. Urges Congress to strengthen tribal jurisdiction to address crimes of gender-based violence on tribal lands that are committed by non-Indian perpetrators who have specific ties to the tribe, while ensuring that the following due process rights are provided: rights of defendants at least equivalent to the rights set forth in Section 234 (c) of the Tribal Law and Order Act (P.L. 111-211) or current federal habeas corpus review, and tribal court sentencing limitations. Urges Congress to strengthen tribal jurisdiction to address crimes of gender-based violence committed on tribal lands in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Elder Law

Advance Care Planning. Urges Congress to amend the Patient Self-Determination Act provisions of the Medicare and Medicaid law to: require that every patient or patient’s authorized representative be given an opportunity to discuss advance care planning with an appropriately trained representative of their health provider organization; require health insurance exchanges developed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2012 to provide advance care planning information and resource options for follow-up assistance; and, in the absence of a validly executed advance directive, any clear undisputed expression of a person’s health care wishes should be honored as long as consistent with applicable law.

     Guardianship. Adopts the Third National Guardianship Summit Standards and Recommendations, dated August 2012, and urges courts and  national, state, local, tribal and territorial policymaking bodies to implement them.

Elder Abuse. Urges state, territorial, tribal and local courts and community organizations to collaborate in establishing court-focused elder abuse initiatives that serve victims or potential victims of elder abuse, and urges such programs to implement specified principles as appropriate for each initiative and jurisdiction.

Gun Violence

Gun Possession Inquiries by Physicians. Opposes governmental actions and policies that limit the right of physicians and other health care providers to inquire of their patients whether they possess guns and how they are secured in the home or to counsel their patients about the dangers of guns in the home and safe practices to avoid those dangers.


Detention Standards. Adopts the ABA Civil Immigration Detention Standards, dated August 2012, to govern the treatment of persons in the U.S. immigration detention system.

Haitian Family Reunification. Urges the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to expedite entry into the United States of already-approved Haitian beneficiaries of family–based visa petitions.

Individual Rights

Public Participation. Urges federal, state and territorial legislatures to enact legislation to protect individuals and organizations that choose to speak on matters of public concern from meritless litigation designed to suppress such speech, commonly known as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Racial and Ethnic Profiling. Amends the ABA’s 2008 policy that urges legislation, policies and procedures to ban law enforcement’s use of racial and ethnic profiling to also ban use of religious profiling and characteristics indicative of religious affiliation.

Legal Education

Consumer Information. Concurs in the action of the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in amending the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools regarding Standard 509 (Consumer Information) and Rule 16 (Sanctions). The amendments clarify the obligations of law schools with respect to the reporting and publication of consumer information and strengthen the range of sanctions that may be imposed for violations of the standard.

Legal Ethics/Legal Profession

Ethics 20/20. Amends the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Commentary in six areas: lawyers’ use of technology and confidentiality; lawyers’ use of technology and client development; ethical implications of retaining lawyers and non-lawyers outside the firm to work on client matters (i.e., outsourcing); the detection of conflicts of interest in a manner consistent with a lawyers’ duty of confidentiality when lawyers move from one firm to another, merge, or there is a sale of a law practice; practice in a new jurisdiction of a lawyer who has been engaged in the active practice of law while pursuing admission; and reducing the time in practice requirement to three to five years for admission by motion

Rural Areas. Urges governmental support of efforts to address the decline in the number of lawyers practicing in rural areas and access to justice issues for residents in rural America.

Tort Law

Dangerous Dog Laws. Urges legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners and to repeal any breed-discriminatory or breed-specific provisions.

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