January 24, 2017

At Miami meeting, ABA to consider law school bar passage proposal, myriad of other issues

CHICAGO, Jan. 24, 2017 — The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, will consider a proposal to simplify and strengthen the bar passage standard for ABA-accredited law schools at the association’s Midyear Meeting in Miami.

The 589-member House will meet at 9 a.m. on Feb. 6 in the James L. Knight Center (3rd Floor) of the Hyatt Regency Miami. The session will conclude the 2017 Midyear Meeting, which begins Feb. 1.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is proposing changes to Standard 316 of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law School and Rules of Procedure, which now considers both first-time and five-year ultimate bar passage rates. Under Resolution 110B, ABA-approved law schools must have 75 percent of all its graduates who take a bar exam pass it within two years of graduation. Typically, the bar exam, a key measure of the quality of a law school’s J.D. program, is offered in jurisdictions twice per year.

The Council is authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit the nation’s law schools. Under ABA rules, the House of Delegates can agree to the change, reject it or send it back to the Council for review with or without recommendations. The House can do this twice, but the Council has the final decision on Standard 316 as well as others related to accreditation.

The proposed change comes at a time when many law schools – and the ABA because of its singular national accreditation role – are being criticized for enrolling and graduating too many law students who cannot pass the bar exam, and who leave law school with significant debt.

In related Resolution 110A, the Council is asking the House to concur on several additional changes to its standards, with the most significant regarding written admission policies and qualifications of admitted students. The change simplifies and clarifies the interpretation of the standard related to a school’s non-transfer attrition or drop rate.

Altogether, the House could consider as many as 30 resolutions. Others include:

  • Criminal justice: Among the half dozen resolutions related to criminal justice, Resolution 112D urges repeal and/or modification of the discriminatory prohibitions on blood donations by gay men. The resolution asks the federal Food and Drug Administration to develop non-discriminatory but medically safe means of accepting blood donations and testing for infectious diseases. Other resolutions seek to make it unlawful for a government official or entity to engage in a pattern or practice to deny right to effective assistance of counsel (107); strengthen efforts for accuracy in microscopic hair analysis (112A); and encourage law enforcement authorities to develop and use translations of Miranda warnings in as many languages as necessary to fully inform individuals of their rights.(112C).

·         Civil justice: Resolution 102 recommends state courts develop and implement a civil justice improvement plan to improve the delivery of civil justice guided by the recommendations in the “Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All,proposed by a committee of the Conference of Chief Justices and endorsed by the CCJ. The resolution also urges bar associations to promote those recommendations.

·         Family issues: Resolution 114 urges governments to enact legislation and implement public policy that provides that custody, visitation and access not be denied or restricted in any way based on a parent’s disability, absent a showing that the disability is causally related to a harm or an imminent risk of harm to the child.

·         Legal services for veterans: Resolution 118 asks lawmakers at all levels to work with the legal profession to collaborate in the identification and removal of legal barriers to veterans’ access to a host of services, such as in housing, education, employment, treatment and benefits.

Details on all the proposals for debate and vote during the one-day House session are here.

Online registration is available for news reporters. During the Midyear Meeting, accredited journalists should register on-site or pick up their preregistered press credentials at the Hyatt Regency Miami (Riverfront Hall, Lobby Level), beginning at 2 p.m. on Feb. 1. A press room for accredited reporters will be provided at the Hyatt’s Riverfront Hall (lobby level), starting at 9 a.m. on Feb. 2. 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 Feb. 6. For credential guidelines, please click here. 

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