March 28, 2017 Articles

American Bar Association House of Delegates Update: Spring 2017

The House recently tackled about 30 different resolutions, including some that will undoubtedly be of interest to healthcare litigators and young lawyers.

By Grant C. Killoran

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates meets at the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings each year to consider various policy initiatives proposed by the various constituents of the ABA.

The House is the policy-making body for the ABA to which the ABA’s officers, sections, committees, and employees are responsible. In addition to formulating policy, the House elects ABA officers and members of the ABA Board of Governors.

The House represents not only various groups within the ABA but also the legal profession as a whole. Its membership of 589 is comprised of 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 again convened at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, on August 8–9, 2016. During two days of deliberations, the House tackled about 30 different resolutions, including those listed below that will undoubtedly be of interest to healthcare litigators and young lawyers.

Resolution 11-1
ABA member Edward Haskins Jacobs of the Virgin Islands submitted a recommendation urging an 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 104
The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, the Commission on Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association submitted a recommendation urging jurisdictions to adopt court rules or legislation authorizing the award of class action residual funds to nonprofit organizations that improve access to civil justice for people living in poverty.

This recommendation was approved by the House.

Resolution 106
The ABA Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Austin Bar Association, the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Cincinnati Bar Association, the Law Practice Division, the Oregon State Bar, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, the Standing Committee on Group and Prepaid Legal Services, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the New York State Bar Association submitted a recommendation urging federal, state, territorial, and tribal courts and legislative bodies to adopt rules or enact legislation to establish an evidentiary privilege for lawyer referral services and their clients (LRS clients) for confidential communications between an LRS client and a lawyer referral service when an LRS client consults a lawyer referral service for the purpose of retaining a lawyer or obtaining legal advice from a lawyer.

This recommendation was approved by the House.

Resolution 109
The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the Commission on Disability Rights, the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission, the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and the Commission on Women in the Profession submitted a recommendation urging that Rule 8.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct add an antidiscrimination and antiharassment provision.

This recommendation, as revised, was approved by the House.

Resolution 112
The ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice; the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice; the Section of Intellectual Property Law; the Section of Public Utility, Communications and Transportation Law; the Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law; and the Section of Science and Technology Law submitted a recommendation urging Congress to enact legislation to require federal agencies to provide an online source where material that has been incorporated by reference into proposed or final regulations can be consulted without charge.

This recommendation was approved by the House.

Resolution 113
The ABA Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission submitted a recommendation urging all providers of legal services, including law firms and corporations, to expand and create opportunities at all levels of responsibility for diverse attorneys and urging clients to assist in the facilitation of opportunities for diverse attorneys and to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase, both currently and in the future, to diverse attorneys.

This resolution was approved by the House.

Resolution 116
The ABA Commission on the American Jury and the Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission submitted a recommendation to amend Principles 2(B) and 6(C) of the ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials to include marital status, gender identity, and gender expression in the groups that should not be excluded from jury service, and to recommend that jurors be educated as to implicit bias and how to avoid such bias in the decision-making process.

This recommendation, as revised, was approved by the House.

The ABA also issued a number of reports in conjunction with its Annual Meeting, including the following:

  • An executive summary of the work of its Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission, which reviewed and analyzed the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system, and the ABA with the aim of formulating methods, policies, standards, and practices to best advance diversity and inclusion. This document can be found at 360commission.
  • Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States (2016), an executive summary of which can be found at

Final Thoughts
For more information regarding the resolutions, as well as the other resolutions discussed by the House at the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting and reports supporting these resolutions, please visit the ABA website.

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

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