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January 12, 2016 Articles

American Bar Association House of Delegates Update: Winter 2016

At the ABA Annual Meeting, the House considered a number of recommendations, including some that may be of interest to healthcare litigators and young lawyers.

By Grant Killoran

At the American Bar Association’s Midyear and Annual Meetings each year, the ABA House of Delegates meets to consider various policy initiatives proposed by the various constituents of the ABA. A number of these proposals come from the Section of Litigation and the Health Care Section.

The House is the policy-making body for the ABA to which its officers, Sections, committees, and employees are responsible. The House represents not only various groups within the ABA but also the legal profession as a whole. Its membership of 559 comprises delegates elected by ABA members in each state; delegates from every state bar association, the larger local bar associations, the sections and divisions, and other national organizations of the legal profession; and delegates elected by the members of the ABA registered at the ABA Annual Meeting. The U.S. Attorney General and the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts also are members of the House by virtue of their offices. The House elects ABA officers and members of the ABA Board of Governors and formulates ABA policy.

The House again convened at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 2015. The House considered a number of recommendations, including those discussed below, that may be of interest to health care litigators and young lawyers.

Resolution 11-1
ABA member Edward Haskins Jacobs of the Virgin Islands submitted a recommendation urging the amendment of section 1.2 of the ABA Constitution to include the following language as one of the purposes of the ABA: “to defend the right to life of all innocent human beings, including all those conceived but not yet born.”

This recommendation was postponed indefinitely.

Resolution 102
The ABA Commission on Disability Rights and the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities submitted a recommendation urging state and territorial bar licensing entities to eliminate from applications required for admission to the bar any questions asking about mental health history, diagnoses, or treatment, and instead use questions that focus on conduct or behavior that impairs an applicant’s ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional manner.

The resolution also states that bar licensing entities are not precluded from making reasonable and narrowly tailored follow-up inquiries concerning an applicant’s mental health history if the applicant has engaged in conduct or behavior that may otherwise warrant a denial of admission and a mental health condition either has been raised by the applicant as, or is shown by other information to be, an explanation for such conduct or behavior.

This resolution replaces ABA Resolution No. 110, Aug. 1994 (94A110).

This recommendation was adopted by the House.

Resolution 103B
The ABA Section of Litigation and the Standing Committee on the American Judicial System submitted a recommendation urging Congress to amend 28 U.S.C. §1332 to provide that any unincorporated association shall, for diversity jurisdiction purposes, be deemed a citizen of its state of organization and the state where the entity maintains its principal places of business.

This recommendation was adopted by the House.

Resolution 105
The ABA Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability submitted a recommendation urging the federal government to adopt laws that protect patients and promote patient safety from defective medical products and opposing legislation that limits or bans punitive damages for claims of patient harm allegedly caused by manufacturers of medical products or devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

This recommendation was withdrawn.

Resolution 106
The ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, and the Section of Health Law submitted a recommendation urging child welfare and juvenile justice agencies to develop comprehensive policies that ensure children in the custody of child welfare and juvenile justice systems are prescribed psychotropic medications only to treat mental health conditions and not to control behavior.

This recommendation was withdrawn.

Resolution 110
The ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education submitted a resolution encouraging the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to mandate through the ABA Standards for the Approval of Law Schoolsenhanced financial counseling for students on student loans and repayment programs and urging all participants in the student loan business and process to develop and publish easily understood versions of the terms of various loan and repayment programs.

This resolution was adopted by the House.

Resolution 112
The ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and the Commission on Youth at Risk submitted a recommendation recognizing that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have the right to be free from attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity and urging governments to enact laws that prohibit state-licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors.

This recommendation was adopted by the House.

Resolution 115

The ABA Judicial Division and the Criminal Justice Section submitted a recommendation urging the National Commission on Forensic Science to develop a model curriculum in the law and forensic science and to provide training in that curriculum for federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal judges.

This recommendation was adopted by the House.

Other Resolutions and the Next Midyear Meeting

For more information regarding these resolutions, as well as the other resolutions discussed by the House at the 2015 ABA Annual Meeting and the reports supporting them, please visit the ABA website.

The ABA House of Delegates will convene again at the ABA Midyear Meeting in San Diego, California, on February 8 and 9, 2016. For more information about the ABA Midyear Meeting, including registration, please visit the ABA website.


Keywords: litigation, health law, American Bar Association, House of Delegates, mental health, diversity jurisdiction, medical products, medical devices, FDA, sexual orientation, forensic science, student loans


Grant Killoran is a coeditor of the ABA Section of Litigation Health Law Litigation Committee newsletter and is one of the State Bar of Wisconsin's delegates to the ABA House of Delegates. Grant is a partner at O'Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing S.C. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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