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Final Update from ABA Annual Meeting in Boston

August 12, 2014

ABA HOUSE OF DELEGATES—DAY TWO

House of Delegates

Judicial Recusal: Recommendation 105C, sponsored by the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section and the Judicial Division, urged “states and territories to adopt clearly articulated, transparent, and timely procedures to ensure that judges disqualify or recuse themselves in instances where conflict or bias or other grounds exist to warrant recusal in order to assure fair and impartial judicial proceedings.” Robert Peck introduced the resolution, which is the third attempt to adopt similar policy regarding recusal. He stated tregarding recusal. Timeliness, transparency, and independence. cy regarding recusal.  or in school detentions. artiahis recommendation emphasizes timeliness, transparency, and independence. The recommendation was adopted. Very little opposition offered in the voice vote.

Capital Punishment: Recommendation 110A, urging jurisdictions which have the death penalty to adopt statutes providing an appropriate judicial procedure whereby successors or legal entities on behalf of an executed individual can litigate a claim that the individual was innocent, was adopted with very minimal dissent. The recommendation was amended to include access to discovery and a standard of proof and procedure that provide a reasonable opportunity to prove innocence. It was also amended to affirm that the legal entity which established the exoneration would qualify for compensation if no successors seek compensation. Criminal Justice Section Delegate Stephen Saltzburg cited support from both prosecutors and the defense bar. Delegate Robert Weinberg quoted Justice Scalia’s statement that he is unaware of anyone executed who has been exonerated, and he asserted that this recommendation would put that statement under judicial review.

Recommendation 114B, recognizing the rights of LGBT individuals as basic human rights and condemning laws discriminating against these individuals, was adopted. The recommendation cited a number of situations outside the United States where LGBT individuals had experienced discrimination.

Recommendation 300, urging Congressional legislation to prevent and punish crimes against humanity, was adopted. The recommendation, offered by the Center for Human Rights, also urged American leadership to negotiate and adopt a new international treaty for the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. Michael Greco, a former ABA president, introduced the resolution. He described the United States as a safe haven for mass murderers because it didn’t currently have law in this area. An international treaty was needed because crimes against humanity were not yet included in treaties, but only existed in customary international law. This recommendation is fully consistent with ABA policy, according to Greco. He pointed out the ABA had supported an International Criminal Court (ICC) in the past. The ABA International Criminal Court Project already sought to assist the ICC by training court personnel and sharing best practices to try those accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Other policies adopted by the ABA House of Delegates include support for loan forgiveness for public service lawyers, initiatives to marshal the resources of recent graduates to meet the unmet legal needs of underserved populations, condemnation of forced marriage as a human rights violation, and the improvement of the enforcement of voting rights for the disabled.

Membership

ABA Treasurer Lucian Pera reported that ABA general operations revenue increased this year by $6.2 million, although membership dues revenue declined by $800,000.  For the ABA’s current fiscal year, annual dues collection will be about $600,000 below budget and about $400,000 below last year’s collection. Dues paying members have declined by 2%, with most of the decline from paid student members. Membership declines are projected to continue due to decreasing law school enrollment and an aging baby boomer generation. The ABA increased dues at its Midyear meeting.

Jack Rives, the ABA’s Executive Director, also addressed membership declines in his remarks. The ABA faced a membership drop to 386,000 in 2010. The number of dues-paying members has decreased every year since 2005. Dues collections are $12 million less than in 2007. Historically, the ABA has depended on dues for 75% of its budget; the Association is working to reduce that percentage by seeking revenue from other sources.

ABA President-Elect Paulette Brown

Paulette Brown, the ABA President-Elect for 2014-15, addressed the House. She remarked that she grew up in a time of segregation, and “We as a society have come a mighty long way.” She discussed perceived instances of implicit bias in society, such as looting after Katrina or in school detentions.

She stated, “We are a service driven organization,” and she cited the ABA’s work in assisting veterans. She urged that opportunities be extended to others, and ABA members serve as social engineers. She praised the ABA, stating “We are the go-to organization for all lawyers.”