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July 28, 2022

ABA House will tackle an array of criminal justice, election integrity issues at Aug. 8-9 meeting

CHICAGO, July 28, 2022 — The American Bar Association’s policymaking body, the House of Delegates, convenes next month to conclude the ABA 2022 Annual Meeting with more than 30 items on the agenda, including several resolutions that address the country’s incarceration challenges and other criminal justice issues.

The in-person-only ABA 2022 Annual Meeting begins on Wednesday, Aug. 3. The House, known as the HOD, encompasses 583 delegates from ABA entities and state, local and specialty bar associations and meets Aug. 8-9.

Also, the HOD will host a roundtable discussion “Democracy in Peril: How Can We Change the Course for America?” on Aug. 8, at 11 a.m. CDT. The program will explore the causes of concern about the future of U.S. democracy and of those around the world. Moderated by Nancy Rogers, a former law school dean and former Ohio attorney general, the panel will include Bakari Sellers, a lawyer, author and political commentator; Kathleen Jamieson, professor and the Walter and Leonore Annenberg director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania; and Steven Levitsky, David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and professor of government at Harvard University.

With the posted agenda set weeks in advance of the HOD meeting, late resolutions could be added under certain circumstances to reflect proposed ABA policy responses to national developments during the past few weeks.

For now, the HOD has two measures on its agenda that seek to make it more difficult to buy guns in certain situations, reflecting the national attention focused on mass shootings in the wake of a series of deadly incidents the past several years. Most recently, 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and seven Independence Day paradegoers died in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.

Resolution 601 urges the repeal of the federal law, also known as the “Charleston Loophole,” that allows for the sale of a firearm to be finalized after three business days have expired, even if the required background check has not been completed. Also, Resolution 801 seeks governments to adopt legislation and authorize appropriate funding related to the so-called “boyfriend,” “stalking” and “ex parte” loopholes in firearms laws and regulations. The measure supports prohibiting the purchase, possession or receipt of firearms and ammunition by persons who commit domestic violence or related crimes.

The federal bipartisan gun control bill signed by President Joe Biden on June 25 closed the “boyfriend” loophole but not the “Charleston Loophole.” It also provides money for states to improve their red-flag laws that allow for a court to temporarily confiscate firearms from family members and others with emotional or mental health issues. In 2017, the HOD adopted policy urging expansion of such gun restraining laws.

Three additional resolutions address what many in the criminal justice field say are problems caused by overpopulated jails and prisons.

Resolution 501 offers the ABA Criminal Justice Standards on Diversion, which provide guidance on various aspects of diversion programs. The standards are consistent with efforts to reduce collateral consequences; address over-criminalization; reduce incarceration; curtail the burden on and investment in the criminal legal system; and eradicate racial disparities throughout the system.

Resolution 502 urges governmental entities to enact legislation permitting courts to hear petitions that allow hearings to take a “second look” at criminal sentences where individuals have been incarcerated for 10 years. The report to support the resolution noted that the U.S. is home to less than 5% of the world’s population but houses nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners, adding incarceration disproportionately impacts people of color.

A related Resolution 604 asks governmental entities to adopt the ABA Nine Principles on Reducing Mass Incarceration, suggesting governmental jurisdictions could immediately begin reducing the number of people they incarcerate by following the principles.

Other HOD proposals include:

  • Resolution 602 seeks adoption of a revised ABA Election Administration Guidelines and Commentary, which urges all election officials to ensure the integrity of the election process through the guidelines and urges that governmental entities provide election authorities with adequate funding to implement them. The guidelines cover such areas as voter registration, accessibility and voting by mail or absentee.
  • Resolution 300 aims to achieve the effective educational use of diversity as recognized in several U.S. Supreme Court decisions during the past two decades. It is part of the effort by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which serves as the national accreditor of 196 law schools, to realize more diversity in accredited law school programs. The changes provide individual schools considerable latitude to meet those requirements and require a school to provide full access to the study of law and membership in the profession to all persons, and particularly for underrepresented groups, among other requirements.
  • Resolution 401 urges governmental entities to enact legislation to include Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander history in the U.S. school curricula and encourages educators and educational institutions to develop related curricula in all levels of the American educational system.

For details on all policy resolutions and other matters for consideration during the two-day session, click here. HOD proposals do not become ABA policy until approved by the House, which meets twice annually.

Reporters: Reporters interested in attending the ABA 2022 Annual Meeting should contact Media Relations and Strategic Communications at [email protected]. All reporters must provide proof of credentials and vaccination status.  

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