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January 28, 2020

Immigration, homelessness among local highlights at American Bar Association meeting Feb. 13-17 in Austin, Texas

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2020 — Immigration at the U.S-Mexico border and solutions to the homeless youth problem in Central Texas are chief among local legal issues that will be explored at the 2020 American Bar Association Midyear Meeting Feb. 13-17 in Austin.

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. 

High-profile speakers include Mayor Steve Adler (Feb. 13, 9 a.m.) on the role of lawyers in addressing societal concerns such as homelessness, gun violence and immigration; Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (Feb. 14, 3 p.m.) on access to justice in rural areas; Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman (Feb. 14, 4 p.m.) on women running for elected office; and President Mimi Marziani of the Texas Civil Rights Project (Feb. 14, 1:50 p.m.) on voting rights.

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 local interest include:

Thursday, Feb. 13

GOOD Guys: Accelerating Progress in Austin 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 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.
9-10:30 a.m., JW Marriott Austin, Level 4, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 4

“The Legal Crisis Facing Unaccompanied Child Immigrants: How You Can Help” Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) representatives, including Fenando Candil of RAICES in Austin, will 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 Director Randi Chavez of Texas Defender Services in Austin and Rich LaVallo of Disability Rights Texas – 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

“Fight to Preserve Safe Haven in the United States” Experts – including Director Denise Gilman of the University of Texas at Austin’s Immigration Clinic and Laura Pena of the 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


“Homeless Youth Legal Network Roundtable” — The ABA, Lifeworks Austin and Texas Appleseed will host a roundtable meeting involving homeless-youth advocates in Austin, San Antonio and Waco to determine available resources and how stakeholders can work together to develop and expand legal services for youth. Discussion will include local, state and national policy, campaigns and model responses, including the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
1:30-3 p.m., Lifeworks Austin, 835 N. Pleasant Valley Road

“Legally Stolen Lands: Impacts and Remedies for Historically Disadvantaged People” Experts – including academics from the law schools at Texas A&M and University of Texas – will explore the problems faced by native peoples with highly vulnerable forms of home 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, JW Grand Ballroom Salon 3

“150 Years of Voting Rights” — As we near the 2020 U.S. presidential election, President Mimi Marziani of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin and other 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?”Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and other legal experts 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

“Holistic Representation: Models for Assisting Clients to Address the Root Causes of Justice System Involvement”Robert Doggett of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and other 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 – including San Antonio immigration attorney Cynthia Hujar Orr – 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

“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 – including Dean Joan Bullock of Texas Southern University and Dean Ward Farnsworth of the University of Texas at Austin – 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 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. Stay up to date on meeting happenings using our Reporter Resources webpage.

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