February 01, 2012

ABA Legislative and Governmental Priorities for 2012

Access to Legal Services: Supports increased funding for civil legal services through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs, and other federal programs that provide legal services for the poor. Supports reauthorization of LSC and VAWA. Urges increased federal support for quality state public defense systems. Supports strengthening legal protections and access to legal assistance for active-duty military, their families, veterans, and low-income military personnel. Urges the development of innovative and effective ways to ensure that veterans collect their due benefits and receive appropriate services to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

Criminal Justice System Improvements and Protection of Rights: Opposes mandatory minimum sentences and supports the broad expansion of alternatives to incarceration, particularly for nonviolent offenses. Supports federal funding for indigent defense representation in criminal cases and urges stronger federal habeas corpus review of state convictions and resources to assure capital defendants have representation at trial and on appeal. Supports legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, reduce the adverse effects of collateral sanctions, and address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.

Eliminating Discrimination and Protecting Civil Liberties: Endorses legal remedies and voluntary actions to eliminate or prevent discrimination based on race, origin, gender or sexual orientation, and opposes efforts to roll back current anti-discrimination laws. Urges the prosecution of Guantanamo detainees in Article III courts unless the Attorney General certifies that the trials cannot take place before such courts and can be  conducted in other courts, and the transfer or release of  those who are no longer classified as enemy belligerents. Opposes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.

Health Care Law and Tort Reform: Opposes federal legislation to preempt state medical liability laws to limit compensation to patients injured by malpractice, or legislation to require patients injured by malpractice to use "health courts" instead of jury trials. Endorses the use of alternatives to litigation for resolution of medical malpractice disputes, but only when such alternatives are entered into on a voluntary basis after a dispute has arisen. Supports federal legislation to provide for clear, predictable, and consistent procedures for Medicare set-aside settlements.

Immigration: Supports measures to improve the immigration court system to increase due process safeguards, including access to counsel for those in removal proceedings. Opposes mandatory detention of those in removal proceedings, supports alternatives to detention, and supports strengthening the ICE National Detention Standards and promulgating them into enforceable regulations. Supports comprehensive immigration reform that promotes legal immigration based on family reunification and employment skills and  provides for new legal channels for future workers, a path to legal status, and enhanced border security.

Independence of the Judiciary: Urges prompt filling of federal judicial vacancies. Supports adequate funding for the federal judiciary and legislation to modify the method by which judges receive cost-of-living adjustments. Opposes legislative initiatives that undermine the judicial process, infringe upon separation of powers, or circumvent the Rules Enabling Act. Urges enactment of legislation that would authorize the Department of the Treasury to intercept federal income tax refunds to help states collect overdue court  debt and crime victim restitution.

Independence of the Legal Profession: Supports the principle that the  primary regulation and oversight of the legal profession should be vested in the court of highest appellate authority of the state in which the attorney is licensed  and opposes federal legislation and agency rules that would undermine traditional state court regulation of lawyers, interfere with the confidential attorney-client relationship, or otherwise impose excessive new federal regulation on lawyers engaged in the practice of law.

Promoting the International Rule of Law:  Supports the creation of and adequate funding for domestic and international agencies and programs that promote the rule of law and the protection of human rights, including the prompt payment of U.S. assessments to the United Nations for its regular and peacekeeping expenses, and enactment of the International Violence Against Women Act. Supports ratification of certain international treaties, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Rome Statute for an International Criminal Court, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

For more details, go to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office website.

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