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Washington Letter May 2015


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Legal Delivery

Senate Judiciary Committee tackles denial of counsel in misdemeanor cases

The ABA commended the Senate Judiciary Committee for convening a hearing May 13 on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in misdemeanor cases, agreeing with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) that the denial of right to counsel in misdemeanor cases is a widespread problem. Grassley and Leahy acknowledged in their opening statements that many states are not providing the counsel the Constitution requires and that state systems need to be reformed.

Federal Government

House Judiciary Committee approves Rule 11 legislation

The House Judiciary Committee approved ABA-opposed legislation May 14 that would amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require, rather than permit, the imposition of monetary sanctions against lawyers for filing non-meritorious claims. H.R. 758, approved by a vote of 19-13, would circumvent the Rules Enabling Act to eliminate provisions adopted in 1993 authorizing, but not requiring, the imposition of sanctions and allowing parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions by withdrawing frivolous claims within 21 days after a motion for sanctions is served.


Supreme Court upholds Florida ban on personal solicitation of campaign funds by state judicial candidates

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision April 29 upholding a Florida state ethical rule banning state judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds “underscores the importance of an independent judiciary to the rule of law,” ABA President William C. Hubbard said in a statement following the ruling. Hubbard explained that in William-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 575 U.S. ___ (2015), the Supreme Court agreed that Florida’s ethics provision is narrowly tailored to promote the state’s compelling interest in a fair and impartial judiciary free from corruption and the appearance of corruption.

Legislation & Lobbying

ABA concerned about proposal for implementing legal services provisions of Korea-US FTA

The ABA expressed concerns this month about a proposed draft amendment to the Foreign Legal Consultant Act issued by the Korean Ministry of Justice that is far more restrictive than what is required under the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (Korea-US FTA). The draft amendment, which would be part of legislation necessary to implement the third stage of the legal services provisions of the Korea-US FTA, defines a “joint venture” to include only a separately capitalized de novo judicial person with a foreign law firm partner and a Korean law firm partner as equity holders.