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February 01, 2014

New ABA policies adopted by HOD cover wide range of crucial issues

New policies adopted this month by the ABA House of Delegates during the association’s Midyear Meeting cover an array of issues in the areas of criminal justice, individual rights, the judiciary and business law.

During its Feb. 10 session, the delegates heard from ABA President Silkenat, who focused his remarks on the need for a Legal Access Job Corps, protection of voting rights, and government action to prevent gun violence.

Silkenat, whose Legal Access Job Corps Task Force held a forum Feb. 9, said the ABA should help coordinate and assist programs on the national, state and local levels that are connecting the unmet legal needs of the country with the unmet employment needs of young lawyers.

Silkenat also said that the ABA must be involved in preserving voting rights, which he said are under attack, and in encouraging voter participation. This year’s Law Day theme, he noted, is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.”

He cited ABA efforts urging enactment of legislation to curb gun violence and limit access to assault weapons and lamented that Congress has not approved strong gun control measures following the Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012. He urged a national discussion on gun violence issues.

In addition to the adoption of new policies by the delegates, a highlight of the meeting was the Board of Governors’ approval of the governmental and legislative priorities for this session of the 113th Congress. The priorities, based on a survey of bar leaders and ABA members and the joint recommendation from the Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Governmental Affairs Office, are encompassed under nine broad categories: Access to Legal Services, Campaign Finance and Election Law Reform, Criminal Justice System Improvements and Gun Violence Prevention, Elimination of Discrimination, Immigration Reform, Independence of the Judiciary, Independence of the Legal Profession, International Rule of Law, and National Security and Civil Liberties.

Other highlights included the selection of New Jersey lawyer Paulette Brown to be president-elect nominee to assume the ABA presidency for a one-year term in August 2015 (see page 4), and the nomination of Phoenix lawyer Patricia Lee Refo to become chair of the House of Delegates in August 2014 for a two-year term. The delegates also approved an increase in ABA membership dues effective for fiscal year 2014-2015 and increases in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018 based on cost-of-living increases as determined by the ABA Board of Governors and approved by the delegates.

In addition, Midyear Meeting programs featured town hall meeting and panel discussions on a variety of topics, including the school-to-prison pipeline, the Winter Olympics and Russia’s anti-gay legislation, education rights of homeless children, cybersecurity, and how lawyers can help address poverty in America.

The following is a summary of policies adopted by the delegates.             

Business Law

Parallel Actions. Urges executive, judicial and legislative governmental bodies at the federal, state and territorial levels to engage in actions designed to reduce unnecessary tension, expense and litigation, and to foster inter-court, inter- and intra-agency and inter-party cooperation and coordination in cases where parallel actions or proceedings arise under both bankruptcy or insolvency law and asset forfeiture or analogous regulatory enforcement law. Recommends specific action that should be taken by the governmental bodies.

Labor Trafficking and Child Labor. Adopts the black letter Model Principles of the ABA Model Business and Supplier Policies on Labor Trafficking and Child Labor, and urges businesses to adopt and implement their own business and supplier policies on labor trafficking and child labor that are consistent with the Model Principles.


Foster Care and Homelessness. Urges governments to enact and implement legislation and policies that prohibit youth from transitioning from foster care to homelessness or to a situation where a former foster youth will lack a permanent connection to a supporting adult. Provides specific steps and reforms, and urges the legal profession and the judiciary to improve and enhance support for foster youth transitioning to adult independence.

Exposure to Violence. Urges the development and adoption of trauma-informed, evidence-based approaches and practices on behalf of children and youth involved in the justice system who have been exposed to violence, including victims of child abuse and neglect or other crimes and those subject to delinquency or status offense proceedings. Urges bar associations to work with judges, lawyers and other professionals to develop and implement training programs in trauma awareness, knowledge and skills for judges, child welfare attorneys, prosecutors, defense counsel and law students.


Judicial Security. Urges all state, local and territorial legislative bodies and governmental agencies

to adopt laws and policies providing for the development and funding of adequate judicial system security protocols; urges state, local and territorial courts to engage in comprehensive review of security needs and regularly review security protocols to promote access to the fair and impartial administration of justice; and encourages development of educational resources for identifying potential security threats and for becoming effective first responders in the event of a violent incident.

Criminal Justice

Representation of Juveniles. Urges governments to ensure that juveniles are provided effective appellate representation and have access to appeals consistent with state statutes and/or state constitutional provisions. Supports providing specified training and resources and collecting data on the rate of juvenile delinquency appeals to identify institutional barriers to appellate representation and possible internal geographical disparities.

Rulemaking Procedures. Urges state governments to increase government transparency and accountability by applying a generally applicable administrative procedure act’s notice-and-comment rulemaking provisions to regulations governing correctional facilities and officers, with any exceptions grounded in genuine safety or similar concerns.  

Elder Law

Medicare Coverage. Urges Congress to enact the proposed Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act or similar legislation that deems an individual receiving outpatient observation care services in a hospital to be an inpatient with respect to satisfying the three-day inpatient hospital stay requirement for Medicare coverage of a post-hospitalization stay in a skilled nursing facility. 

Individual Rights

Nutrition. Urges governments to promote the human right to adequate food and nutrition for all through increased funding, development and implementation of strategies to prevent infringement of that right. Urges the U.S. government to make the realization of a human right to adequate food a principal objective of U.S. domestic policy.

Uniform Laws

Powers of Appointment. Approves the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act as an appropriate act for states desiring to adopt an act codifying the law on powers of appointment, which are routinely included in trusts for tax reasons and to add flexibility for property arrangements. 

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