Division Delegate Report

By Al Purdue

The Midyear Meeting of the House of Delegates took place via Zoom on Monday, February 22, 2021. Although everyone would have preferred meeting in person in Orlando as was originally planned, one benefit of the virtual meeting was that it was conducted under rules of limited debate. Those rules allowed no more than 6 speakers (3 in favor, and 3 opposed) for each resolution and resulted in a significantly shorter meeting than might otherwise have been the case. There were very few technical glitches, voting was actually easier than it might have been in person, and the Chair was able to report on the exact number of votes for and against every resolution. A list of all resolutions addressed by the House, and the final action taken can be found here. Revised resolutions can be found here.

Remarks by the ABA President and the Executive Director

Most of the ABA leadership addressed the House during the meeting, including President Patricia Lee Refo. President Refo’s address focused on the ABA’s continuing efforts to defend the rule of law and its many successes in furthering diversity. Executive Director Jack Rives spoke about the effects of the pandemic on membership, the current state of the ABA’s “Value Proposition,” and the association’s finances. He noted that a year ago we were on track to meet all of our goals, but the pandemic had a major impact on the ABA as it has on so many other organizations. While revenue last FY was down almost $36 million, expense cuts of over $33 million led to a budget deficit of only $3 million. Similarly, although the ABA lost 575 dues paying members last fiscal year, it reversed a 13 year trend of losing over 5,000 dues paying members per year. Notably, last year the ABA exceeded its new, dues paying member goal by 18,000, and we have added over 2,000 new, dues paying members per month so far this fiscal year. He concluded by saying that, while challenges remain, both financial and membership trends are headed in the right direction.

Action on Resolutions

Although several resolutions were withdrawn prior to consideration by the House (101B, 106B), all of those that made it to the floor passed—some with relatively minor revisions and most by very comfortable margins. Resolution 107C (HIV status alone should not be a bar to military service, etc.) sparked significant opposition by all of the ABA’s military groups, but still passed by vote of 237 to 117. Somewhat surprisingly, Resolution 101A (co-sponsored by GPSLD and advocating the expanded use of specially trained “facility dogs” to assist victims and vulnerable witnesses while testifying) was probably the most contentious resolution of the day. After spirited opposition by the defense bar, it eventually passed by a vote of 202 to 135—but only after GPSLD Delegate Greg Brooker spoke eloquently in support of the resolution. Other significant resolutions that were passed included 106C (recommending the extension of repayment terms for student loans, allowing them to be re-financed on better terms, and urging suspension or forgiveness in certain circumstances) and 11-1 (a change in House procedural rules that will require all future resolutions to demonstrably advance 1 or more of the ABA’s 4 goals.)

It is unclear whether the Annual Meeting in August 2021 will be live or virtual. Arrangements for the planned meeting in Toronto were cancelled just before the midyear meeting. We believe it is likely that the annual meeting will again be virtual, with live meetings returning (pandemic permitting) in the Fall of 2021 or in 2022.

Alexander W. Purdue

Colonel, USAF (ret.)

Alexander W. Purdue, Colonel, USAF (ret.) of Santa Fe, NM is a Division delegate. He is a former chair of the Division.