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Access to justice, voting rights top HOD Midyear agenda

Feb. 10, 2020

The American Bar Association House of Delegates meets Feb. 17 in Austin, Texas, to consider several policy resolutions, including a proposal to encourage state lawyer-licensing agencies to consider approaches to expand access to justice efforts.

The ABA House of Delegates will convene at the Midyear Meeting in Austin to debate a range of legal topics.

The ABA House of Delegates will convene at the Midyear Meeting in Austin to debate a range of legal topics.

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The House of Delegates is the ABA’s policy-making body. It is scheduled to consider more than 30 proposals, including resolutions related to voting registration, curbing gun violence and lessening the burden of bond after a criminal conviction and before sentencing. The House consists of 596 delegates from state, local and specialty bar associations and meets twice a year at the ABA Midyear and Annual meetings.

The regulatory resolution calls for state regulators and bar associations to continue to explore regulatory innovations that have the potential to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of civil legal services. At least six states have proposed — or adopted — substantial regulatory changes and more are considering doing the same.

The resolution also calls for efforts to collect data from pilot programs to assess whether changes provide more affordable legal services while maintaining protections for clients.

Proponents of these changes say that they will lead to more avenues for accessible and affordable civil legal services. Opponents fear that some of the changes would allow nonlawyers to take advantage of vulnerable populations needing legal representation.

Among the voter-related measures is a recommendation urging governmental bodies to enact legislation that would allow eligible youth between 16 and 18 to preregister to vote, and for these units to automatically add preregistered teens to the voter rolls when they reach the legal voting age.

The gun safety resolutions seek to ban “ghost guns,” which are firearms made by individuals, without serial numbers or other identifying markings; toughen gun permitting laws; and raise awareness and regulations for safe storage of firearms.

Resolutions do not become ABA policy until approved by the House and are subject to change before then.

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