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Washington Letter October 2016


Featured Articles


ABA supports prompt enactment of Family First Preventive Services Act

The ABA reiterated its support last month for the Family First Preventive Services Act and urged Congress to give final approval to the legislation, which takes crucial steps toward reforming the federal child welfare financing structure to support keeping children safely with their families. H.R. 5456, which passed the House in June, and S. 3065, companion legislation ready for floor action in the Senate, would allow use of federal child welfare funds under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act for preventive services.

Legislation & Lobbying

Bill would reform use of solitary confinement

Citing the damaging effects of solitary confinement, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced legislation Sept. 28 that would make significant reforms in the use of the practice in federal prisons and encourage states to implement similar changes. The bill, S. 3432, builds on a memorandum issued in January by President Obama that directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to implement recommendations from a DOJ report supporting steps to reduce the use of solitary confinement as well as ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.


ABA president expresses concerns about proposals that could undermine independence of Malaysian Bar

ABA President Linda A. Klein expressed concerns last month that a number of proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act of 1976 (LPA), the Malaysian law governing the Malaysian Bar, appear to be inconsistent with international legal principles and could severely undermine the independence of the Malaysian legal profession. In a Sept. 23 letter to Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, Klein emphasized that the Malaysian Bar Council has existed for over 70 years as an independent legal association governed by the LPA with the aim “to uphold the cause of justice without regard to its own interest or that of its members, uninfluenced by fear or favour.”

Domestic & Sexual Violence

Bills focus on pro bono assistance to domestic violence victims

Bipartisan legislation pending in Congress seeks to increase access to pro bono legal services for victims of domestic violence. S. 2280, which unanimously passed the Senate in November 2015, and H.R. 6149, introduced in the House Sept. 22 just ahead of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, would require the U.S. Attorney in each judicial district across the country to hold at least one public event per year promoting pro bono services “as a way to empower victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and engage citizens in assisting those survivors.”

Human Rights

Legislation would protect rights of human trafficking victims

The ABA expressed support this month for bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate that would increase protection and assistance for victims of human trafficking. S. 3441, introduced Sept. 28 by Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and H.R. 6292 − introduced the same day in the House by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and David W. Jolly (R-Fla.) – would permit a victim of human trafficking to move to vacate convictions and expunge arrests for nonviolent crimes committed by the victim as a direct result of the trafficking.