August 07, 2018

ABA House adopts new dues structure, urges Congress to address family border separation

The ABA House of Delegates wrapped up its two-day meeting Tuesday in Chicago, after approving a new membership model, updating lawyer-client communication model rules and urging the U.S. government to never again pursue the policy of separating families at the southern U.S. border.

Concluding the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting Tuesday, the House approved Resolution 10C, which asks the Executive Branch and Congress to fix the border situation and ensure a policy of separation is never reinstated. In introducing the resolution on behalf of the Minnesota State Bar Association, state Senior Judge Cara Lee Neville summed up the message to the government this way: “Stop it. Fix it. And don’t do it again.”

“This is not a political issue,” she said. “This is a civil rights issue. This is a humanity issue.”

A stream of speakers, including former ABA President Stephen Zack (2010-11), supported the resolution, which passed unanimously. Zack, a Miami attorney, recounted his own experience of being separated as a young boy in 1961 from his parents while the family was leaving Cuba. “I can tell you I remember every minute of that night,” he said. “I have never forgotten a moment of those 24 hours (of separation).”

On Monday, the House, the association’s policy-making body of 601 delegates from state, local and specialty bar associations, adopted the new membership plan (Resolution 177), which effectively streamlines the ABA membership scheme by reducing some dues at the highest level and cutting the price points of membership from 157 to five. Under the plan, which takes effect Sept. 1, 2019, ABA members will have access to more and better content, including hundreds of free CLEs and information curated and delivered according to members’ individual interests and specifications.

The five new ABA dues categories are $75, $150, $250, $350 and $450, depending on years as a lawyer and type of practice. Law students will still receive free membership.

The lawyer communications measure (Resolution 101) culminates several years of work by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and affiliated groups, which have shepherded the process for review of model rules related to advertising and lawyer communications with clients. 

The action updates ABA Model Rules for state licensing regulators to consider that relate to communications with and solicitation of clients, lawyer advertising and communication of fields of practice and specialization. The changes, which clarify and simplify current rules, emphasize false and misleading advertising and are intended to reflect a balance between First Amendment rights and consumer protection.

In other action over two days the House:

  • Concurred with four legal education resolutions, including one expanding the opportunity for online legal education under the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. A fifth resolution, which would have relaxed the requirement for a “valid and reliable” test, like the LSAT, in the law school admissions process, was withdrawn. About two dozen law schools now allow for the GRE, and the challenge for the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the national accreditor of law schools, is how to determine what constitutes a “valid and reliable” admissions test.

  • Approved Resolution 300 that urges legal employers not to require mandatory arbitration of claims of sexual harassment. The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession sponsored the proposal, which has become a rallying cry in the #MeToo movement that has grown amid allegations of widespread sexual harassment. “It is time that we act,” said outgoing ABA President Hilarie Bass, who stepped down at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting.

  • Approved Resolution 114, which adopts the black letter and commentary to the ABA Ten Guidelines on Court Fines and Fees and urges governmental agencies to promulgate law and policy consistent with the guidelines. The guidelines are intended to minimize excessive penalties if an individual cannot afford to pay them. “We can alleviate this distrust through commonsense policies that ensure equal treatment of rich and poor and fair by considering the individual financial circumstances of people charged with offenses,” said Rob Weiner, chair of the Working Group on Building Trust in the American Justice System.

  • Adopted Resolution 118 that supported qualified transgendered people to serve in the U.S. Armed Services without discrimination.

For a complete list of House actions click here.