January 29, 2020

Migrants at the border, voting rights are among immigration and diversity highlights at American Bar Association meeting Feb. 13-17 in Austin, Texas

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2020 — The problems facing migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, the state of LGBTQ+ U.S. laws and ensuring the voting rights of marginalized communities are chief among immigration and diversity-related 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

GOOD GUYS Panel: Accelerating Progress in Austin This panel is the latest in a series of programs designed to break the impasse in women’s advancement by engaging men, once missing from the conversation for too long. By working together, a bigger impact is possible.

1:30-3:30 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

Friday, Feb. 14

Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice: Homelessness, Gun Violence, Immigration Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, will highlight the ABA’s Midyear Meeting 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 has furthered her lifelong commitment to social justice.

9-10 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 

“We Don’t Need to Carry the Work Alone: Interdisciplinary Representation” Practitioners – including Jayesh Patel, president, Street Democracy, Detroit; Richard LaVallo, legal director, Disability Rights Texas in Austin; Brenda I. Piñero Carrasquillo, director of programs, ProBAR; and Randi Chavez, director of mitigation and investigation, Texas Defender Services in Austin – will discuss working models of interdisciplinary legal representation in which non-legal expertise is incorporated into legal teams, frequently utilized to serve clients in immigration, housing, disability, death penalty and other complex cases. Topics will include ethical considerations, strengths, challenges and lessons learned from those in the field.

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

“Keeping Your Client Free: Avoiding Adult Guardianship” — Experts will share the tools available to lawyers to avoid guardianship and will offer defense strategies, including how to advocate for limited guardianship and the modification or termination of an existing guardianship.

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW grand Ballroom Salon 2

“Legally Stolen Lands: Impacts and Remedies for Historically Disadvantaged People” — Experts will explore the problems faced by native peoples with highly vulnerable forms of home ownership and land ownership due to various requirements under tribal or state laws, for which the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, adopted in 15 states and Washington, D.C., is only a partial remedy.

1:30-3 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, J@ Grand Ballroom Salon 3

“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

“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

“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 will explore 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” — Experts will examine 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; the military ban and healthcare protections affecting transgendered citizens; the Equality Act of 2019; and other timely topics.

9:45-11:15 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 1

Spirit of Excellence Awards — The ABA will recognize five legal professionals with its 2020 Spirit of Excellence Award for their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The honorees: Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director, Indian Legal Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Donise E. Brown, director-corporate counsel, Starbucks, Coral Gables, Fla.; Judge Lora Livingston, Travis County Civil District Court, Austin; Richard Pena of the Law Office of Richard Pena, Austin; and Donald K. Tamaki of Minami Tamaki LLP, San Francisco.

Noon-2 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 3, Lone Star Ballroom Salons D-E

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 – including C. Elisia Frazier, managing deputy city attorney, City of Atlanta; and Sarah E. Redfield, editor of ‘Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias” – 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

Stonewall Awards” – Three longstanding activists will be honored by the ABA with its Seventh Annual Stonewall Award for advancing LGBT people in the legal profession and championing LGBT legal causes: James Holmes of Clyde and Co, Chair Carmelyn Malalis of the Commission on Human Rights in New York and Chase Strangio of ACLU's LGBT& AIDS Project in New York.

5:30-7:15 p.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 2, Brazos

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 3 p.m. on Feb 12. A press room for accredited reporters will be provided near main registration starting at 3 p.m. on Feb. 12. 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.

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