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ABA considers proposal for more transparency with law school finances, other changes

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ABA considers proposal for more transparency with law school finances, other changes

By John Glynn

CHICAGO, July 16, 2015 — The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, will take up a proposed resolution at the upcoming ABA Annual Meeting that seeks more financial counseling and transparency for students considering or in law school.

The House — made up of 560 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country — meets Aug. 3-4 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago’s Grand Ballroom, Gold Level, East Tower. The wide-ranging resolutions include a number of proposed internal governance changes as well as others that emphasize the ABA’s continuing focus on more diversity in the legal profession.

Last month, the 15-member ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, chaired by former ABA President Dennis W. Archer (2003-04), released its report that called for enhanced law-student debt counseling, wider collection and publication of law-school financial data, and innovation to lower costs for law students. The task force is asking the House to adopt Resolution 110. It urges the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which serves as the ABA’s law-school accrediting agency, to mandate enhanced financial counseling and more easily understood loan and repayment programs.

Resolution 11-6, directed at ABA governance, would make changes in the ABA Constitution and By-Laws that affect the House of Delegates, the nominating committee that considers prospective officers, the Board of Governors and other officers. Broadly, the multi-part amendment adds more representation from LGBTQ and disability communities.

Another House proposal urges state and territorial licensing entities “to eliminate any questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses or treatment when determining character and fitness for the purpose of bar admission.” Resolution 102 asks these agencies, instead, to focus questions on conduct or behavior that impairs an applicant’s ability to practice law in a competent, ethical and professional manner.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to deliver welcoming remarks to the HOD during its opening session on Aug. 3. Altogether, over two days the House is expected to consider about two dozen resolutions and amendments to the association's Constitution and Bylaws. Resolutions include ones related to:

·        Cybersecurity: Urges legislatures and government agencies to provide the funding necessary to develop, implement, and maintain appropriate cybersecurity programs for the courts. The resolution notes that cybersecurity threats could affect the judicial system and may pose a risk to the fair and efficient administration of justice. (116)

·        Domestic and sexual violence: Different resolutions address issues of domestic and sexual violence. (1) Urges the federal government to adopt legislation and appropriate full funding to support the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, in support of its efforts to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other activities designed to promote access to education free from gender-based violence. (109A) (2) Urges governments to enact civil protection order statutes regarding domestic, intimate partner, sexual, dating, and stalking violence that extend protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.(109B)
(3) Recognizes freedom from domestic, dating and sexual violence and stalking and all other forms of gender-based violence as a fundamental human right and urges governments to recognize, enact and adopt resolutions affirming the right of all women, men and children to live free from domestic, dating and sexual violence and stalking.(109C)

·        Conversion therapy: Recognizes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people have the right to be free from attempts to change their sexual orientation and gender identity and urges governments to enact laws that prohibit state-licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. (112)

·        Medical liability: Urges the federal government to adopt laws that protect patients and promote patient safety from defective medical products and opposes legislation that limits and/or bans punitive damages for claims of patient harm allegedly caused by manufacturers of FDA-approved medical products or devices. (105)

·        Tax definitions: Urges Congress to amend current law to reverse the effect of judicial decisions limiting Treasury’s authority to regulate the conduct of paid tax advisors, including tax return preparers, to protect consumers and safeguard the tax system. (101)

All resolutions currently filed can be found here. No proposal constitutes association policy unless and until the House of Delegates adopts it. Some offerings may be withdrawn while other measures may be submitted. Any measure can be amended until it is taken to a vote.

The Annual Meeting Reporter Resources webpage provides updates on meeting programs, highlights, speakers and events. The status of resolutions will be updated here on Aug. 3 and 4 as the House acts on them. Reporters interested in attending the ABA House of Delegates or other meeting events can register here. Accredited reporters are welcome to cover the meeting at no charge. A press room for accredited reporters will be provided in the Purple Level in the East Tower of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, starting at 9 a.m. on July 30. The room will be open daily thereafter from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will close one hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates on Aug. 4.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.