At the 2021 virtual Midyear Meeting, the ABA Board of Governors adopted 10 federal legislative and government priorities for the 117th Congress that will guide ABA leadership, the GAO’s team of lobbyists, and ABA’s grassroots outreach for the next two years.
The priorities for next two years (listed in alphabetical order) are:
1. Access to Legal Service / Access to Justice
3. Criminal Justice System Improvements
4. Election Integrity and Civic Education
5. Elimination of Discrimination
6. Immigration Reform
7. Independence of the Judiciary
8. Judicial Oversight of the Legal Profession
9. International Rule of Law
10. Legal Education
GAO initiates the priorities-setting process by sending a survey before the beginning of each new Congress to ABA members to solicit their views on which ABA policies should be the focus of the Association’s advocacy efforts. The board considers members’ input, along with nine criteria - such as importance to the practice of law, timeliness and importance to society – to determine whether an issue should be made a priority.
At its meeting, the board made several changes to the Association’s priorities. As a reflection of the changed political environment and in recognition of the significant concerns voiced by survey respondents over the dangers posed by allegations of election fraud, the board established Election Integrity and Civic Education as a new priority. Similar concerns regarding cybersecurity threats also prompted the board to make Cybersecurity its own priority, while congressional and ABA member interest in racial injustice resulted in the board expanding the scope of Criminal Justice Improvements priority by adding “eliminating racial and ethnic biases in the criminal justice system.” The previous priority, Independence of the Legal Profession, was renamed Judicial Oversight of the Legal Profession to better reflect the ABA’s efforts in this area.
The board removed Access to the Civil Justice System, a priority during the 116th Congress, because legislative proposals of concern to the bar that reduce or threaten civil justice access are unlikely to receive consideration in the 117th Congress. The board also deleted “strengthen legal protections for Servicemembers and veterans” under the Access to Legal Services priority because the ABA achieved its objectives in that area in the last Congress.
Thanks to the many ABA members who participated in the survey. The input provided was indispensable to informing the ABA’s advocacy priorities for the next two years.