August 01, 2015

House of Delegates approves wide array of new policies during Annual Meeting

The 559-member ABA House of Delegates, tackling an array of policy recommendations during its Aug. 3-4 session during the association’s Annual Meeting, approved new legislative policies ranging from domestic violence to cybersecurity.

The delegates also approved changes to the ABA Constitution and Bylaws and adopted the recommendations of the ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, a group chaired by former ABA President Dennis W. Archer that spent a year studying the financing issues.

Other highlights of the meeting included a keynote address by U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and the passing of the presidential gavel from William C. Hubbard to New Jersey lawyer Paulette Brown, the first African-American woman to serve as the association’s president. Linda A. Klein, of Atlanta, assumed the position of president-elect in line to become president in August 2016. New Mexico lawyer Roberta Cooper Ramo, who became the first woman ABA president 20 years ago, received the ABA Medal, the association’s highest award.

Attendees also had an opportunity to participate in a wide range of programs, including panel discussions on the Voting Rights Act, over-incarceration, cybersecurity, immigration detention, bias in the justice system, Cuba-U.S. relations, same-sex marriage, and Magna Carta. A panel of four solicitors general shared their experiences representing the government before the Supreme Court. The Commission on the Future of Legal Services also continued its public hearings seeking more effective and efficient ways to provide legal services.

The following is a summary of legislative resolutions approved by the delegates.

Civil Rights

Section Name Change. Approved the request of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities to change its name to the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice to more accurately reflect the work of the section and its membership.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Recognizes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people have the right to be free from attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity. Urges governments to enact laws that prohibit state-licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors and to protect minors, particularly minors in their care, from being subjected to conversion therapy by state-licensed professionals.

Domestic and Sexual Violence. Urges colleges and universities to recognize the rights of students to receive an education free from sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, gender-based violence, and intimate partner violence. Urges Congress to increase funding for the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education and the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice to support efforts to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other relevant laws to assure that fair procedures are utilized in the hearing and disposition of complaints. Urges governments to adopt meaningful remedies and vigorous enforcement mechanisms, including civil remedies, while assuring that the rights of the accused are recognized, respected and protected, and to fully fund implementation of such remedies and enforcement.

Civil Protection Orders. Urges governments to enact civil protection order statutes regarding domestic, intimate partner, sexual, dating, and stalking violence that extend protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Gender-based Violence. Recognizes freedom from domestic, dating and sexual violence and stalking and all other forms of gender-based violence as fundamental human rights, and urges governments to recognize this and enact and adopt resolutions affirming the right of women, men and children to live free from domestic, dating and sexual violence and stalking.

Criminal Justice

Juvenile Delinquency Records. Adopts the Model Act Governing the Confidentiality and Expungement of Juvenile Delinquency Records, which mandates that courts, probation offices and law enforcement agencies keep juvenile court and law enforcement records confidential.

Monitors. Adopts the black letter of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Monitors, which outline best practices for the appointment and retention of monitors, also known as independent private sector compliance officers or inspectors general engaged by organizations pursuant to a court order, civil remedial action, settlement  or agreement with governmental entities to ensure the organizations’ compliance with the law and to reduce waste, abuse and fraud.

Pell Grant Eligibility. Urges Congress to restore Pell Grant eligibility for prisoners who qualify under existing need-based criteria in order to facilitate reentry and reduce recidivism.

Forensic Science. Urges the National Commission on Forensic Science, established by the Department of Justice in 2013, to develop a model curriculum in law and forensic science and to provide training in that curriculum for federal, state, local, territorial and tribal judges.

Cybersecurity

Judicial System. Urges legislatures and governments to provide the funding necessary to develop, implement and maintain appropriate cybersecurity programs for the courts and to train court personnel on methods to counter threats and protect judicial information systems from cyber intrusions or data breaches.

Election Law

Wait Times at Polls. Urges election administrators, officials and legislators at the federal, state, local, territorial and tribal levels to adopt and implement policies designed to achieve a 30-minute maximum per-voter wait time at the polls.

Election Observers. Supports observation of elections in the United States by observers duly selected by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations of which the United States is a member; urges legislative bodies and governmental agencies to enact laws and adopt rules, regulations and policies that expressly permit the direct observation of the election process by OSCE observers; and urges government officials and political leaders to welcome and support accredited international election observers of the OSCE.

Legal Education

Bar Admissions. Replaces 1994 policy and urges state and territorial bar licensing entities to eliminate from applications required for admission to the bar any questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses or treatment and instead to use questions that focus on conduct or behavior that impairs an applicants’ ability to practice law in a competent, ethical and professional manner. Bar licensing entities are not precluded from making reasonable and narrowly tailored followup inquiries concerning an applicant’s mental health history under certain circumstances.

Standards. Concurs in the action of the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in making several technical amendments to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.

Financing of Legal Education. Approves recommendations from the report of the 15-member ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education that include: mandating enhanced financial counseling for prospective and current students on student loans and repayment programs; urging all participants in the student loan business and process, including law schools,  to develop and publish easily understood versions of the terms of various loan and repayment programs; encouraging the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to return to collecting expenditure, revenue and financial aid data annually for each law school and to make public the information on legal education that it maintains; and encouraging law schools to be innovative in developing ways to lower costs for law students.

Litigation

Diversity Jurisdiction. Urges Congress to amend 28 U.S.C. §1332 to change the definition of “citizenship” to provide that any unincorporated association shall, for diversity jurisdiction purposes, be deemed a citizen of its state of organization and the state where the entity maintains its principal place of business.

Native Americans

Children and Violence. Adopts and urges prompt implementation by the administration, Congress, and state and tribal governments of specific recommendations contained in Ending Violence so Children Can Thrive, the November 2014 report of the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.

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