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January 28, 2020

Voting rights, criminal justice reform and immigration are among highlights at American Bar Association meeting Feb. 13-17 in Austin, Texas

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2020 — Ensuring the right to vote, criminal justice reform, immigration woes at the U.S.-Mexico border and the fight to preserve U.S. safe haven for asylum seekers are chief among legal issues that will be explored at the 2020 American Bar Association Midyear Meeting Feb. 13-17 in Austin, Texas.

With several hundred top-quality legal programs and events, and presentations by America’s foremost law experts and speakers, the ABA Midyear Meeting is the nation’s premier gathering of legal professionals.

The 596-member ABA House of Delegates – the association’s policy-making body – will meet Feb. 17, 9 a.m., in the Grand Ballroom (Level 4) of the JW Marriott Hotel. For details on the proposals for debate and vote during the one-day session, click here.    

Online registration is available for news reporters. Credential guidelines are here.  

Programs of interest include:

Thursday, Feb. 13

“Deepfakes, Democracy and the Courts” – The past 18 months have provided stunning evidence of the ability of state actors to undermine the foundations of democracy through the use of deepfake videos. Former Undersecretary Suzanne Spaulding of the Department of Homeland Security will examine the issue and the paths forward, including a new effort by the National Center for State Courts and a handful of bar associations and state supreme courts to develop countermeasures.
10:40-11:40 a.m., Hilton Austin, Sixth Floor, Austin Grand Ballroom Salon J

“Bar Exam Alternative Innovations” Members of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Education will explore the context, imperative and possibilities regarding alternatives to the traditional bar exam, one of the primary topics addressed by the commission in the past two years through stakeholder engagement and public comment.
4-6 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 2

Friday, Feb. 14

Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice: Homelessness, Gun Violence, Immigration Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, will highlight the programming on public interest law, focusing on how lawyers can address complex societal issues, such as homelessness, through bipartisan discourse grounded in law and policy advocacy. Also, Judge Ernestine Gray of the New Orleans Parish Juvenile Court will share how advocacy opportunities and ABA involvement have furthered her lifelong commitment to social justice.
9-10:30 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 4

“The Legal Crisis Facing Unaccompanied Child Immigrants: How You Can Help” The ABA will join with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) to educate and train volunteer lawyers interested in serving unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone.  
10:15-11:15 a.m., Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, Ballroom Level, Capital Ballroom A

“What do Eddie Murphy, Marilyn Monroe, and Steve Jobs Have in Common? The US Foster Care System” Children’s rights advocates, juvenile court representatives and other stakeholders will outline how the foster care legal system works, the rights involved and the legal objectives sought. Panelists will also introduce the 2019 ABA Family Integrity Policy, which promotes access to justice for children and their families across the country.
1:30-3 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 2

“Fight to Preserve Safe Haven in the United States” — Experts – including those from the University of Texas at Austin’s Immigration Clinic, Southern Poverty Law Center, Alianza Americas and ABA South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project – will discuss the recent retreat from domestic and international obligations to provide safe haven to refugees through various executive branch actions, such as new bars to asylum, the slashing of refugee admissions and the expansion of the “Remain in Mexico” program. How have changes affected people fleeing persecution? How can we best resolve the challenges facing our immigration system?
1:30-3 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

“150 Years of Voting Rights” — As we near the 2020 U.S. presidential election, voting-rights advocates will share how organizations across the country are celebrating the 15th Amendment’s 150th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment – and how these groups are protecting voters in the 21st century.
1:50-2:50 p.m., Hilton Austin, Sixth Floor, Grand Ballroom Salon H

“Speaking for the Dying: Life, Death and Law” — Seven in 10 Americans over the age of 60 who require medical decisions in the final days of life lack capacity to make them. Drawing on more than two years of observations in two intensive care units, ABA researchers and Virginia A. Brown of University of Texas Dell Medical School will describe how decisionmakers for patients without capacity to speak for themselves make life-and-death decisions. Discussion will include new ABA guidance in this area and the role of advance directives.
2-3:30 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 3, Lone Star Ballroom Salon H

“Legal Deserts – How do Bars Fill the Gap?” — Panelists – including Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court – will explore solutions to the problem of access to justice in rural areas, in which technological barriers, outstanding student loans for new lawyers, smaller populations and other circumstances lead to vast areas in many states that have no legal representation.
3-4 p.m., Hilton Austin, Sixth Floor, Austin Grand Ballroom Salon K

“Where Do We Go with New Regulations?”Associate Judge Lora J. Livingston of Travis County’s 261st Civil District Court and Justice Deno Himonas of the Utah Supreme Court will be among experts who will advise on new regulations for the legal profession set by various states and their judiciaries.
3-4 p.m., Hilton Austin, Sixth Floor, Room 616 AB

“One Person, (N)one Vote” — Representatives from the ACLU, Prison Policy Initiative and Southern Poverty Law Center will examine the residency requirements and moral character tests that continue to bar certain marginalized communities from voting, such as homeless people, students and those with criminal convictions. Panelists will analyze the implications of these policies when it comes to obtaining accurate census counts and redistricting, especially with respect to prison-based gerrymandering and transient populations.
3:15-4:45 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

“Holistic Representation: Models for Assisting Clients to Address the Root Causes of Justice System Involvement” — Seasoned practitioners will share how working holistically with criminal offenders can best stabilize their lives and reduce recidivism. Such an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach can best address the enumerable civil legal consequences – such as loss of housing, benefit eligibility and professional licenses – that keep too many people locked in the criminal justice system, they say.
3:15-4:45 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

“To the Border and Back Again” — Frontline immigration lawyers will trace the journey of the asylum seeker, from border travel to the processing of refugee claims, exploring the collateral consequences of both documented and undocumented migrants who face the criminal justice system once in America.
3:30-5 p.m., Omni Austin, Lone Star Room, Ballroom Level

Vote. Run. Lead. 100 Years of Women in Politics — Inspired by the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, a panel of women leaders – including Justice Eva Guzman of the Texas Supreme Court and former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton – will offer first-hand, practical advice on the opportunities and challenges related to running for elected office.
4-5:30 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 3, Lone Star Ballroom Salons B-C

Saturday, Feb. 15

“School to Prison Pipeline: From Report to Action” — Members of the ABA Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice will explore its report on the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately draws children of color out of the public schools and into the criminal justice system, focusing on how the legal profession can work on the state and local level to implement the report's five primary recommendations to dismantle the system.
8-9:30 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

“Diversifying Law Firms” — Using findings from the new 2019 ABA Model Diversity Survey, experts will propose tangible steps for diversifying law firms.
8-9:30 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 2

The Disenfranchised Among Us — Prominent voting rights advocates and electoral system representatives will discuss the barriers that prevent citizens otherwise entitled to vote in U.S. elections and will explore the implications of continuing to employ those restrictions upon the fundamental right to self-determination.
9:45-11:15 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

“LGBTQ+ State of the Union” — Equality advocates will analyze the current state of LGBTQ+ laws in the United States including the oral arguments in the Title VII cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court; military ban and healthcare protections affecting transgendered citizens; Equality Act of 2019; and other timely topics.
9:45-11:15 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Validity of Risk Assessment Tools in Setting Bail and Drafting Sentences — Lawyers, judges and other stakeholders will examine the risk-assessment tools now used as part of new bail reform efforts and the sentencing of criminal defendants across the country, sharing expertise on their scientific validity; their limitations, such as accusations of racial and class bias; error rates; and the needed safeguards to prevent injustice if these tools are manipulated.
2:15-3:45 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 3, Lone Star Ballroom Salon F

“Men in the Mix: How to Engage Men on Issues Related to Gender in the Profession” — The ABA will reveal the early results of its newest research project – Men in the Mix – which utilized focus groups and qualitative research to better understand why and when men engage on issues traditionally considered ‘women’s issues’ in the law.
2:30-4 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

“Police Civil Rights Litigation: From Ferguson to Dallas – 2020 Vision Today?” — The issues surrounding lawsuits stemming from police-public interaction will be explored by experienced practitioners on both sides of the docket, whether bringing such a case on behalf of a plaintiff against law enforcement or defending the case on behalf of the police and/or governmental entity.
2:30-4 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 2

“Implicit Bias: Governmental Complicity” — Is government complicit in perpetuating implicit bias? Practitioners, academics and other experts will answer the question through an examination of some long-standing and new governmental policies, laws and regulations and their impact upon communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in housing, transportation, education and the criminal justice system.
4:15-5:45 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 2

“From Separate but Equal to Affirmative Action: Where Are We 70 Years After Sweatt v. Painter?” — On the 70th anniversary of Sweatt v. Painter, which challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation, panelists will delve into the progress (or lack thereof) in advancing systemic support for aspiring African-American lawyers who choose to attend law school and whether there still exists a disparity in school funding.
4:15-5:45 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

During the Midyear Meeting, accredited journalists should register onsite or pick up their preregistered press credentials at the Fourth Level foyer of the JW Marriott Hotel beginning at 9 a.m. on Feb. 12. A press room for accredited reporters will be provided at Griffin Hall (Level 2) of the JW Marriott starting at 9 a.m. on Feb. 13. 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. 17. Stay up to date on meeting happenings using our Reporter Resources webpage.


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