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July 28, 2021

ABA House will tackle principles for police body-worn cameras, other timely issues at Annual Meeting

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 — The American Bar Association House of Delegates convenes Aug. 9-10 to conclude the 2021 ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting with more than 40 items on the agenda, including first-time recommendations on best practices for police body-worn cameras and a proposal that lawyers devote at least 20 hours annually to advance and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession.

The HOD, as the ABA policy-making body is known, will meet at the end of the first-ever ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting, which begins Aug. 4 and will be both virtual and in-person at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The session of 597 delegates from ABA entities, and state, local and specialty bar associations will start at 8:30 a.m. CDT on both days and likely end midday Tuesday.

With national attention focused on police misconduct in the wake a series of incidents the past several years, including the May 25, 2020, homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis, several ABA entities are proposing the House adopt ABA Principles on Law Enforcement Body-Worn Camera Policies. The proposal, Resolution 604, seeks appropriate government entities to develop comprehensive policies regarding the use of cameras, as well as the use and storage of their footage.

The principles include training, monitoring and compliance, and privacy. The report, which accompanies the resolution, said body-worn cameras, when used in accordance with comprehensive and transparent policies, encourage appropriate behavior, increase accountability and improve public trust in law enforcement.

Another criminal justice-related proposal, Resolution 510, urges governments to ban the use of no-knock warrants, which generally permit law enforcement officers to enter premises without first identifying their authority and purpose. This type of warrant was used in the police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, that left Breonna Taylor dead in March 2020.

Resolution 102, which is now on the “consent calendar” and likely to pass without opposition, urges members of the legal profession to devote 20 hours each year to support diversity, equity and inclusion. The report cites the relatively low numbers of minorities in the legal profession and the national movement to address and rectify the impact of inequality in society. It also singles out ABA Model Rule 6.1, which was adopted in 1983 and urges lawyers to provide voluntary pro bono legal services of 50 hours annually, as evidence that these formal policies can make a difference.

Resolution 201 recommends a significant change in how the federal government approaches proceedings under the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. Under the current system, each agency employs its own corps of administrative adjudicators, which has led to claims that this creates an inherent conflict of interest that undermines public confidence in the impartiality of administrative adjudications. The proposed resolution urges Congress to design a central panel of administrative judges to bolster the independence of agency adjudication.

Other HOD proposals include:

  • Resolution 512 asks Congress to enact legislation to amend the U.S. Bankruptcy code to permit student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy without needing to prove undue hardship. Similar to a proposal at the February Midyear Meeting, the resolution seeks to lower the threshold for mostly younger lawyers who grapple with a challenging employment environment and as much as $145,000 or more in student loans and the strict standards covering student debt under federal bankruptcy law.
  • Resolution 505 urges all jurisdictions in the U.S. to enact laws that raise the minimum age for prosecution of children as alleged juvenile delinquents to age 14. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, in the majority of states the upper age is 17 years old and the lower age is not specified for delinquency and status jurisdiction.
  • Resolution 503 requests Congress to create a subcommittee of the proposed Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans under pending legislation, H.R. 40. The ABA request is to study and make findings relating to the present day social, political and economic consequences of the criminal legal system and mass incarceration for African American persons living in the U.S.

  • Resolution 608 seeks enactment of legislation to implement a living wage to narrow the wage gap between chief executive officers and their employees, through legislation like the Raise the Wage Act and the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act.

  • Resolution 609 opposes any federal, state, local, territorial and tribal legislation, regulation or policy that prohibits transgender students from participating in athletics in accordance with their gender identity.
  • A couple of internal ABA governance items. Resolution 11-2 would postpone until after the 2023 Annual Meeting determination for whether representation of ABA sections and state and local bar associations should be reduced based on membership numbers. Resolution 11-3 amends various sections of the ABA Constitution, Bylaws and Rules of Procedure as it relates to the House to change gender binary language to gender nonbinary language using the singular “their,” “them” and “they.”

For details on the all policy resolutions and other matters for debate and vote during the two-day session, click here.

Reporters: Register and stay updated before and during the Annual Meeting by visiting both the conference’s Reporter Resources page and the general information website. Also, ABA credential guidelines are here.  

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