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August 09, 2023 House of Delegates

ABA strengthens rule on duty of lawyers to review clients

The American Bar Association House of Delegates wrapped up its two-day session on Aug. 8 by adopting a host of new policies, including a resolution that strengthens a lawyer’s obligation to decide — before accepting or maintaining representation — whether a client seeks to use the lawyer’s services to further a crime or fraud.

The ABA House of Delegates convened Aug. 7-8 to conclude the 2023 Annual Meeting in Denver.

The ABA House of Delegates convened Aug. 7-8 to conclude the 2023 Annual Meeting in Denver.

By a 216-102 vote, the HOD approved Resolution 100, which amended Model Rule 1.16: Declining or Terminating Representation of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The change is the second time this year the ABA has enacted efforts to protect lawyers from unwittingly becoming involved in a client’s or prospective client’s criminal and fraudulent activities. In February, the HOD adopted a measure that endorsed “reasonable and appropriate” federal government efforts aimed at combating money laundering.

Altogether, the HOD considered more than 50 agenda items at the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting, which ran from Aug. 2-8 in Denver. It approved a wide range of policies, including several criminal justice resolutions and others on individual rights, and heard remarks from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The HOD also adopted two new policies that emerged from the recent legal case arising in Texas related to the drug mifepristone, which can be used to block pregnancies.

One is aimed at reducing “judge shopping” that allows a nationally significant case to be assigned to a specific U.S. District Court judge because the suit was filed in a district where a single, predetermined judge is assigned a case, such as the situation in federal court in Amarillo, Texas. The other supports the principle that judicial review of decisions of the Federal Drug Administration to approve drugs be conducted under a legal standard that considers science and statutory decision-making authority.

The new criminal justice policies set out 14 principles to reform plea agreements, urge governmental entities to ban involuntary prison labor and update a roadmap for the delivery of public defense.

In supporting individual rights and dignity, the HOD adopted resolutions that condemn Islamophobia or fear of Islam; support the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023 or similar legislation; ask governmental entities to take action to prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste to protect Dalits and others who live in caste-oppressed communities; and encourage governmental entities to reject laws and policies that target and harmfully discriminate against transgender people, especially youth.

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