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Washington Letter July 2015


Featured Articles

Courts & Judiciary

Comprehensive crime bill draws from task force testimony

A bipartisan comprehensive criminal justice bill introduced last month in the House incorporates recommendations made during hearings before the Over-Criminalization Task Force of the House Judiciary Committee, which examined the entire federal criminal justice system during the last Congress. “We cannot allow our criminal justice system to remain on its current trajectory,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who chaired the task force with bill cosponsor Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.).

Federal Government

ABA sponsors first Women’s Day on the Hill

More than 40 women gathered in Washington, D.C., June 23-24 for the first ABA Women’s Day on the Hill, an opportunity to visit members of Congress to call attention to wage discrimination based on sex and to urge enactment of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced as H.R. 1619 and S. 862, would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by making common-sense changes so that the nation can continue to make progress in eradicating gender-based wage discrimination and advancing the longstanding stated goal of equal pay for equal work.

LGBTQ Legal Issues

ABA president applauds Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling

ABA President William C. Hubbard applauded the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision June 26 that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed in another state. “The court’s decision means that now children of same-sex couples will have the security that legal marriage provides,” Hubbard said in a statement issued the same day as the decision. “Recognizing the dignity and equality of same-sex couples is consistent with the fundamental principles that undergird the rule of law: fairness, equality and liberty.”

Government Benefits

Senate approves Older Americans Act reauthorization bill

As the Older Americans Act of 1965 (OAA) marked its 50th anniversary, the Senate unanimously passed ABA-supported legislation July 17 to reauthorize the act and strengthen its provisions. The ABA, which has been a strong advocate for the nation’s seniors for the past 30 years, said in letter earlier this year to the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee that OAA reauthorization is an important opportunity to “reaffirm and refine our country’s commitment to a safe, secure and dignified life for all older Americans.”

Civil Rights & Constitution

ABA president urges new review of torture allegations

ABA President William C. Hubbard urged the Obama administration last month to undertake a new, comprehensive review of allegations that the United States engaged in illegal and inhumane interrogations following the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and to clarify its interpretation of the extraterritorial application of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. “The ABA remains concerned that the United States has not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full accountability for those alleged to be responsible for conducting and authorizing illegal and inhumane interrogations,” Hubbard wrote June 23 to U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

Federal Government

Voting rights legislation introduced

A group of Senate and House Democrats introduced bills June 24 in response to recent state and local laws that they maintain suppress the voting rights of minorities, the elderly and youth. The laws were passed after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), which struck down the formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that defined jurisdictions with a history of restricting voting rights.

Rule Of Law

House Judiciary Committee approves bill to ensure parties’ rights to pursue legal claims against the United States

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation July 8 that would apply much needed reforms to 28 U.S.C. § 1500 to enable companies, property owners, Indian tribes and other parties with meritorious claims against the federal government to obtain complete relief in the U.S. courts. H.R. 2329, which is based on a recommendation from the Administrative Conference of the United States and supported by the ABA, would eliminate procedural roadblocks created by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation, 131 S. Ct. 1723 (2011).