chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

February 2018 Washington Letter


This Month's Articles

Access to Justice

Delegates approves host of new policies at Midyear Meeting

The ABA House of Delegates, convening Feb. 5 during the association’s Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, adopted numerous new policies that address pressing legal issues. The new policies include support for providing more access to the courts for low-income individuals, prohibiting the death penalty for those who were 21 or younger at the time of their crimes, enacting legislation to protect DREAMERS, and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression.

Pro Bono

Budget agreement extends FY 2018 funding through March 23; provides supplemental disaster funds for LSC

A budget agreement enacted Feb. 9 continues funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) through March 23 at its fiscal year 2017 appropriations level of $385 million and provides the LSC with $15 million in additional funds for mobile resources, technology and disaster coordinators to respond to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires. P.L. 115-123 (H.R. 1892) marks the fourth time Congress was forced to continue funding for the federal government on a temporary basis for fiscal year 2018, which runs from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018.

White Collar Crime

Anti-money laundering bill raises concerns over burdensome regulations and impact on attorney-client privilege

ABA President Hilarie Bass expressed concerns to the Senate Judiciary Committee this month about key provisions in legislation that, while intended to fight money laundering, would undermine the attorney-client privilege and impose burdensome and intrusive regulations on many small businesses, their lawyers, and the states. In a Feb. 1 letter for the record of a Feb. 6 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Beneficial Ownership: Fighting Illicit International Financing Networks Through Transparency,” Bass expressed the ABA’s opposition to S. 1454, which was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Civil Rights & Constitution

CBP addresses ABA concerns in revised standards for borders searches of lawyer’s electronic devices

In response to concerns raised by the ABA last year, U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a revised Directive on Border Search of Electronic Devices on Jan. 4 that adopted several key ABA-requested reforms. The ABA contacted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in May 2017 about standards that permitted CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to search and review the content of lawyers’ laptop computers, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices at U.S. border crossings without any showing of reasonable suspicion. These devices typically contain client information that is inherently privileged or otherwise confidential. The correspondence was followed by a meeting between ABA representatives and senior DHS officials last June.


Future remains uncertain for DACA participants

The future remains uncertain for participants in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after Congress and the Trump administration failed this month to reach an agreement to extend the program. Even though President Trump announced in September 2017 that DACA would end March 5, federal judges in California and New York have blocked that action. Both judges ruled that the president’s decision to terminate the program, which was established in 2012 by President Obama through executive action, was flawed. The court rulings require the Department of Homeland Security to continue to process DACA renewal requests as the cases move through the courts. On Feb. 26, the Supreme Court declined the administration’s request for expedited review of the issue.

Washington News Briefs

About the Washington Letter

The ABA Washington Letter is a monthly publication produced by the Governmental Affairs Office to report and analyze congressional and executive branch action on legislative issues of interest to the ABA and the legal profession. The newsletter highlights ABA involvement in the federal legislative process and focuses on the association's legislative and governmental priorities and other issues on which the ABA has policy.

Current Washington Letter

Contact: Eric Storey, Director of Grassroots and Digital Advocacy, 202-662-1770


View the Washington Letter archive, which includes PDF versions of the Washington Letter from the 111th Congress to now.