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February 05, 2024 Top Legal News of the Week

ABA House adopts range of new policies at Midyear Meeting

The American Bar Association House of Delegates (HOD) approved new policy against laws that limit teaching about race or gender during a one-day meeting on Feb. 5 that concluded the 2024 Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

The ABA House of Delegates voted on a range of key legal issues to conclude the 2024 Midyear Meeting in Louisville

The ABA House of Delegates voted on a range of key legal issues to conclude the 2024 Midyear Meeting in Louisville

American Bar Association photo

The new policy, approved by a voice vote, also opposes bans on books that cover those subjects. It specifically expressed opposition of any attempt by governmental entities to restrict the teaching, inclusion of studies or access to resources on the “experiences, roles and contributions” of any individual or group on the basis of such areas as gender, race and ethnicity.

The HOD, which is the association’s 597-member policymaking body, approved nearly 30 other new policies that include requiring free-speech policies for the nation’s law schools, encouraging written policies for the removal of prosecutors for misconduct and urging governmental entities to follow federal reporting guidelines for deaths occurring in correctional and law enforcement custody.

The educational policy cited Florida’s 2022 Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which included measures prohibiting teachers from discussing matters related to race, color, national origin or sex ― effectively curtailing any discussion of slavery and marginalization in American history. In Texas, an appointee of the governor a few days ago put the brakes on American Indian/Native studies courses. In South Carolina, a bill that would limit certain teachings on race in public schools and allow parents to challenge educational materials is moving through the state’s House of Representatives.

The ABA resolution, said Darcee Siegel of Florida, “fights back against the dismantling of public education.”

The law school free speech action establishes Standard 208 for the nation’s 196 law schools now accredited by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The new standard requires schools to adopt a policy that would allow faculty, students and staff “to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations or protests,” and would forbid activities that disrupt or impinge on free speech. But it wouldn’t impose specific policy language.

The HOD also approved Resolution 177c, which increases general member dues by $45 across each of five categories. With inflation, ABA dues are 40% less than a decade ago, ABA Treasurer Frank Langrock said, when the ABA last raised dues. The new dues structure, beginning Sept. 1, would range from $120 to $495.

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