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Bar Watch Bulletin February 2006

Annual Meeting Preview, Death Penalty Moratorium in Georgia
February 01, 2006
Recommendation 108A, sponsored by the Section of Individual Rights and the Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice, urges the United States Congress to create and fund a commission to study the present day effects of slavery. The sponsors also urge that this commission propose public policies or governmental actions to address the consequences of slavery.

Recommendation 108B, offered by the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, "urges Congress to pass legislation to establish a process to provide federal recognition and to restore self-determination to Native Hawaiians." This would be "defined as an authority similar to that which American Indian and Alaska Native governments possess under the Constitution to govern and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their members."

Recommendation 106E, sponsored by the Tort, Trial, and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), urges the ABA to support the "proper care and treatment of animals as an essential part of the response to any disaster or emergency situation as part of any emergency preparedness operational plan."
The Sections of Family Law and Individual Rights & Responsibilities and the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty sponsor Recommendation 102 to oppose "legislation and policies that prohibit, limit, or restrict placement into foster care of any child on the basis of sexual orientation of the proposed foster parent when such foster care placement is otherwise determined to be in the best interest of the child."

Recommendation 103, offered by the Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability and the Sections of Dispute Resolution, Litigation, and TIPS, urges the ABA to reaffirm "its opposition to legislation that places a dollar limit on recoverable damages that operates to deny full compensation to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice action." Furthermore, the ABA is urged to recognize "that the nature and extent of damages in a medical malpractice case are triable issues of fact." The sponsors also oppose the creation of "health courts."

Speaker Highlights
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Theodore C. Sorensen, Special Counsel to President John F. Kennedy
Seventh Circuit Judges Richard Cudahy, Frank Easterbrook and Diane P. Wood
Chicago lawyer Barry Sullivan
Former ABA President Jerome Shestack, recipient of Robert F. Drinan Service Award

Program Topics

Racial & Ethnic Equity for Victims of Katrina: "A panel of lawyers, journalists, community activists, educators, politicians and Katrina survivors will strategize, analyze and discuss what we can do individually and collectively to resolve critical problems confronting the victims of Hurricane Katrina with respect to housing, employment, insurance, education, health benefits, bankruptcies, discrimination and other vital services and needed resources."

Our Mothers, Our Sisters, Our Daughters, Ourselves - Into the Forefront: The Current Role of Minority Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights:
"A panel of today's civil rights heroines will share their insight on what efforts they are making today, what efforts minority women lawyers can and should make and how each of us can help in the struggle for civil rights."

Post-Katrina Catastrophe! Ecosystem, Structural, Environmental and Insurance Law Challenges
From Dred Scott to Rosa Parks and Hurricane Katrina: Where Do We Go from Here? Constitutional Law through the Eyes of Black America:
"This panel will examine historical and modern landmarks surrounding the treatment of blacks in America and their implications for full enfranchisement under law."

The Perfect Storm: Are the Roles and Authorities Adequate for Emergency Response?: "At the height of an emergency, legal authority for executive action by government is at its peak - but so is confusion and, often, even chaos. With Hurricane Katrina, questions concerning government legal authority to act emerged in the midst of the immediate response phase. An avian flu pandemic has the potential to amplify these issues many times over. The program's panel will explore state, local and first responder issues; federalism and constitutional challenges; military involvement; and private sector integration."

Merryman Play: "This 1861 case, which debated the president's power to suspend habeas corpus in wartime vs. that of Congress, has new significance in the post 9/11 world. Panelists will discuss current executive branch actions and recent decisions in light of the historical debate between President Lincoln and Chief Justice Roger Taney."

Advocating for Health Care as a Human Right: Health Care in Prison and Detention: "Although inmates and detainees often have significant health problems, they often receive substandard care, if any. A diverse panel of experts in the law of custody and detention will discuss domestic and international sources of health care law."

Pruning Politics from the Judicial Branch: "In this roundtable discussion, local bench and bar members will discuss improvements in the justice system in light of a bill in the Illinois legislature proposing public financing of appellate judicial elections. Featured speakers are Illinois state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Kwame Raoul."

Dialogue Between Congress and the Judiciary: "U.S. Rep. Judith Biggert (R-Ill.) and Judge D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Court of Maine, will discuss and debate the role of the legislative and judicial branches and their role in the legal system."

Electronic Eavesdropping: Security v. Privacy: "Sponsored by the ABA Center for Human Rights, this luncheon will feature a keynote address by Morton H. Halperin, director of U.S. Advocacy, Open Society Institute, a private foundation that works to shape public policy on democratic governance, human rights and economic, legal, and social reform. Halperin will speak on 'Electronic Eavesdropping: Security and Privacy.'"

In Other ABA News...

A study conducted by the Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities concluded that the state of Georgia cannot ensure fairness and accuracy capital cases. The study recommended that Georgia impose a moratorium on both executions and death penalty prosecutions until it could remedy the problems in the system. One dissenter, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Harry D. Dixon Jr., opposed the call for the moratorium.
In response to the report, ABA President Michael Greco stated, "This conclusion, reached by leaders of Georgia's legal community, underscores the grave risk of injustice and the need for a comprehensive evaluation of Georgia's death penalty system, and the implementation of all necessary reforms."

The study recommended reforms to remedy inadequate funding for defense counsel, failure to provide defense counsel in state habeas proceedings, lack of meaningful review of proportionality of sentences, inadequate pattern jury instructions addressing mitigation, continued existence of racial disparities in capital sentencing, and the unreasonably strict "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof required to prove mental retardation. The state should also determine whether its death penalty system has unacceptable disparities related to race, geography or other factors; establish a statewide clearinghouse to review all decisions to seek the death penalty for proportionality and disparities; and should restrict death sentences to cases where the defendant is found guilty of intentional murder or murder committed with a reckless disregard for human life.

The study did not allege that an innocent individual was ever executed in Georgia. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's spokesman, when asked by the media whether the governor would consider a moratorium, stated "nope." Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker also said he did not agree with the call for a moratorium.

The ABA neither supports nor opposes the death penalty, although the Association supports a moratorium on capital punishment.