ABA HOD FAQ

ABA House of Delegates FAQ

Frequently asked questions from bar leaders about the ABA House of Delegates

What is the role and composition of the ABA House of Delegates?

The House of Delegates is the association's governing, policy-making body. It is designed to be representative of the legal profession of the United States.  It elects the officers of the association and the members of the Board of the Governors. It is the judge of the election and qualifications of its members.  It has all the powers necessary or incidental to performing those functions.

Why is bar association participation important?

State and local bar association participation in the House is critical because it allows the leadership of those bodies to provide key input on the issues and resolutions that will eventually become ABA Policy.

What is the difference between a bar delegate and a state delegate?

Bar delegates are selected and certified by their bar associations as their representative in the House.  The term of a bar delegate is two years.

State delegates are elected by the members of the association in their respective states to maintain relationships with state and local bar leaders to ensure that the ABA continues to be relevant within the state. The election for state delegates is administered by the ABA Board of Elections. State delegates serve for a three-year term and may serve for no more than three consecutive full terms. State delegates also serve as members of the Nominating Committee; chair their state's delegation in the House; vote to nominate the association’s officers and the elected members of its Board of Governors; communicate to the delegation any comments or positions received from the state local and specialty bar associations in  states; as well as communicate regularly with the leadership of their respective bar associations about ABA/House actions and member benefits and services. 

What’s the criteria for a bar to have a delegate?

The ABA Constitution indicates thresholds for state and local representation in the House. State bar associations are entitled to at least one delegate in the ABA House of Delegates. Local bar associations with at least 2,000 members are entitled to one delegate.

State bars can obtain additional delegates based on achieving the thresholds for lawyer members in their respective states, and state and local bars can obtain additional delegates based on achieving the thresholds required for their bar association’s ABA membership.

How do I find out how many delegates my bar has?

Contact Lana Rivera (lana.rivera@americanbar.org, 312-988-5216) in the ABA Policy and Planning Office.

Do my delegates need to be ABA members?

Yes, all members of the House of Delegates must be ABA members.

How do I certify my delegates?

Contact Lana Rivera (lana.rivera@americanbar.org, 312-988-5216) in the ABA Policy and Planning Office for a certification form that must be completed and signed by an officer of the organization (typically the executive director).

How do I change my delegates?

Delegate credentials may be changed by completing and submitting a certification form to the Policy and Planning Office, indicating what changes are to be made. However, it is important to note that the term pattern (even or odd year) that the ABA House of Delegates assigns for all entity seats in the House will never change, and the term years are based on a September to August fiscal year basis, not a calendar year basis, nor when a state or local bar changes its leadership and appointments.

How does our bar increase its number of delegates?

State bar associations are entitled to at least one delegate in the ABA House of Delegates.  Local bar associations with at least 2,000 members are entitled to one delegate. Bars that believe they have reached or exceeded an ABA threshold to be eligible for additional delegates may submit a request to the House Credentials and Admissions Committee. Annually, at the end of each calendar year, the Committee will review the House’s entities’ membership data as of December 31 to determine whether any entities have membership growth that would support providing an entity with an additional delegate.

Can our bar lose delegates?

Yes. Every five years the annual review includes a determination of whether entity representation should be reduced, based on its membership, the current national lawyer population figures, or an entity’s ABA membership.

What is the State Bar Caucus?

The National Caucus of State Bar Associations is a non-profit unincorporated association comprised of (a) state bar associations of the 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia Bar having representation in and recognized by the House of Delegates (HOD) of the American Bar Association (the “ABA”); (b) the commonwealth and territorial bar associations of any commonwealth and territory of the United States recognized and have representation in the House of Delegates of the ABA; and (c) the six regional bar conferences of state and/or commonwealth or territorial bar associations in the United States recognized by the ABA. 

At the meetings of the ABA, Caucus members meet to hear from selected proponents and opponents of resolutions coming before the HOD.  The resolutions are selected based upon their relevance to state bar associations.  Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions about the proposed resolutions.  Discussion of resolutions is followed by remarks from available ABA officers generally including the ABA president, president-elect, and/or HOD chair.  A member of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office staff generally provides an overview of recent ABA advocacy efforts.  For questions, contact Pamela Robinson.  

What is the process for developing a resolution?

Visit the HOD Webpage to view the following information, short videos and webinar:

- The short video What is the House of Delegates?

- The short video How an Idea Becomes ABA Policy

- Resources for Resolutions with Reports (Filing Instructions and Templates, Checklist  Drafting Guide and Style Manual for Resolution with Reports, Webinar, Power Point Presentation and Tips for Drafting, Submitting and Revising Resolutions

For what does the ABA reimburse?

For Midyear Meetings – Reimbursement is available for long distance transportation on the basis of coach rate or economy class fares published by the appropriate commercial air carrier, or rail fare, or, when a private automobile is used, at the rate of $57.5 cents per mile plus tolls and parking; local transportation to and from air terminal or railroad stations; and local transportation to or from hotels, home or office. Members of the House are not entitled to reimbursement for lodging and meals; and per diems for members of House Committees which are required to meet on days before the session of the House may be allowed $100 for the day(s) on which the committee is required to meet.

For Annual Meetings – Reimbursement of travel expenses for attendance at the Annual Meeting of the House is not authorized by the association’s bylaws. Members of House Committees which are required to meet on days before the session of the House may be allowed $100 for the day(s) on which the committee is required to meet.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Under no circumstances will per diem allowances be issued if the request for reimbursement is not submitted within six months after the end of the fiscal year in which the meeting occurred.

Can non-delegates attend House of Delegates meetings?

Yes. All guests should obtain a meeting badge for entry to attend House Midyear and Annual Meeting proceedings. There is always seating (chairs only) to the left or right of the “well” of the House for association members and guests.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Guests and association members who are not members of the House of Delegates are not permitted to sit in the “well” of the House which are the seats and tables for House delegates only in the center of the meeting room with table stanchions indicating the names of the state and territory delegations.

Who can I contact with other questions?

Contact Contact Lana Rivera (lana.rivera@americanbar.org, 312-988-5216) in the ABA Policy and Planning Office, or your state delegate.