February 11, 2021

ABA House considers legal education financing measures, other proposals at virtual session

CHICAGO, Feb. 11, 2021 – The American Bar Association House of Delegates will consider two proposals at its Feb. 22 Midyear Meeting that are intended to ease the financial burdens many law students and recent graduates are experiencing because of the legal profession’s uncertain financial environment and tightened job market.

The proposals are among about three dozen resolutions that the 597-member ABA policy making body, known as the HOD, is expected to consider at the one-day meeting that concludes the virtual ABA 2021 Midyear Meeting, which begins Feb. 17. Other resolutions on HOD’s wide-ranging agenda include topics involving civil rights, election law and lawyer well-being.

Even before COVID-19 slowed the U.S. economy, many young lawyers struggled with their student loans and the strict standards covering student debt under federal bankruptcy law. Further, studies have shown recent law graduates carry an average of about $145,000 in student debt, while last summer the National Association for Law Placement reported that 49% of the law schools surveyed stated employers had rescinded employment offers and many other offers were pushed into 2021.

The House will consider two resolutions to address these concerns.

Resolution 106B urges Congress to amend the U.S. bankruptcy code to ease restrictions on how student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. Under federal law, educational debt can only be discharged if the borrower demonstrates that continued repayment of the debt would impose an “undue hardship” on the debtor and the debtor’s dependents – a practice most experts say is a nearly impossible hurdle to overcome in the courts because of no clear statutory guidelines.

Resolution 106C urges the federal government to implement programs to assist lawyers and law students experiencing financial hardship due to their student loans. It recommends extending loan deadlines, allowing either refinancing or transferring of obligations to federal from commercial programs, and authorizing suspension or forgiveness of student loans.

Also as a help to some recent law graduates taking the bar exam, Resolution 105 urges that authorities of each jurisdiction allow test-takers to bring tampons, pads or other menstrual products in opaque rather than clear containers, and recommends relaxing of other restrictions now in place. Each jurisdiction across the country develops its own rules and guidelines, including those related to the carrying in of menstrual products, and the restrictions regarding menstrual products can pose additional pressures and challenges to test-takers.

Two other proposals are geared toward helping lawyers and law students better manage their well-being and family life, particularly during the pandemic. Resolution 300A encourages relevant entities to make resources accessible that advance well-being in the entire legal profession. Resolution 300B seeks government and other entities to provide adequate funding to ensure access to fair, affordable, and high-quality childcare and family care as well as other resources for school-age children.

Other resolutions before the House include:

  • 107B urging states both to adopt certain principles in administering elections for U.S. president and that if a dispute arises as to the proper recipient of the electoral votes for a state, Congress should give controlling effect to the winner of the popular vote for that state unless a state allocates electoral votes by congressional district.
  • 113 re-asserting that governmental entities adopt laws and policies to use total population, including minors and non-citizens, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, in redrawing electoral district lines after the decennial census to achieve equality of population of districts as required by U.S. constitutional law.
  • 10E endorsing the federal Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020, or similar legislation to prohibit the disclosure of personally identifiable information of active, senior, recalled or retired federal judges, and other jurists. The proposed act follows the assassination of a son of a federal judge in New Jersey last year.
  • 10F urging governmental entities to establish officer training and implement guidelines to be used by officers in giving exit orders during discretionary traffic enforcement stops where the officer has safety concerns or a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
  • 103B asking the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorney general to withdraw certain AG opinions and replace them with opinions that are consistent with congressional intent, the U.S. Constitution and U.S. treaty obligations.

Also, in a change in ABA process, the HOD is expected to consider Resolution 11-1 that amends it rules to add the requirement that future resolutions must advance one or more of the ABA four goals.

All proposed resolutions can be found here. Only proposals adopted by the House constitute association policy.

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