ABA considers policy on death penalty protocols at Midyear Meeting

The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, is scheduled to consider several hotly debated national criminal justice and other legal topics when it meets Feb. 9 at the Hilton Americas Hotel (1600 Lamar St.) as part of the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston.

The House, made up of 560 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country, will be asked to approve Resolution 108B, which asks states that impose capital punishment through lethal injections to publicly disclose the protocols - or ingredients in the solution - that are used. In the aftermath of the botched legal injections in Oklahoma in April 2014, several ABA entities have asked the House to approve more disclosure about the drugs and other aspects of the execution process. With death penalty opponents pressuring drug companies into refusing to provide the necessary drugs for executions, states have resisted releasing names of the suppliers and the specific drugs and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to force them to do so.

The House is expected to tackle another topic that drew national attention in 2014. Resolution 113 supports government-appointed counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings, and urges immigration courts not conduct hearings unless an unaccompanied minor has an opportunity to consult with counsel. Last year, thousands of foreign-born children arrived in the United States unaccompanied by their parents or other legal guardians, purportedly to escape political persecution, poverty, gang violence or other dangerous conditions in their home countries.

Important to law students and young lawyers particularly, Resolution 106 encourages law schools to offer comprehensive debt counseling and debt management education to all currently admitted and enrolled law students. It also asks bar associations to offer similar debt counseling and debt management services to young lawyers and newly admitted lawyers.

Altogether, the House of Delegates, which meets Feb. 9, is expected to consider some 20 additional resolutions on diverse issues including:

- Privacy: Resolution urges Congress to enact legislation that supports the principles regarding consumer data privacy set forth in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights contained in the 2012 White House Report, "Consumer Data Privacy In a Networked World," and urges governments to enact legislation, regulations and practices consistent with these principles.

- Youth offenders: Different resolutions seek governments to adopt (1) a presumption against the use of restraints on juveniles in court and to permit a court to allow such use only after providing the juvenile with an in-person opportunity to be heard and finding that the restraints are the least restrictive means necessary to prevent flight; and (2) sentencing laws and procedures that both protect public safety and appropriately recognize the mitigating considerations of age and maturity of youthful offenders and that life without the possibility of release or parole for youthful offenders be eliminated, both prospectively and retroactively.

- Death penalty: A resolution calls upon governments that impose capital punishment and the military to require that before a court can impose a sentence of death, a jury must unanimously recommend or vote to impose that sentence, and the jury in such cases must also unanimously agree on the existence of any fact that is a prerequisite for eligibility for the death penalty.

- Domestic and sexual violence: Different resolutions urge governments to (1) enact civil protection order statutes that extend protection to minor and adult victims of sexual assault, rape and stalking outside of the context of an intimate partner relationship, and without the requirement of any relationship between the parties and (2) to amend existing laws and regulations, or to enact new laws or regulations to expand housing protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

- Consumer protection: Asks governments to continue to enforce and to enact rules or legislation that strengthen consumer protections regarding deceptive or fraudulent loan foreclosure rescue practices.

- Tax definitions: Urges Congress to amend current law to reverse the effect of recent judicial decisions limiting Treasury's authority to regulate the conduct of paid tax advisors, including tax return preparers, to protect consumers and safeguard the tax system.

No proposal constitutes association policy unless and until the House of Delegates adopts it. Some offerings may be withdrawn, while other measures may be submitted. Any measure can be amended until it is taken to a vote.

Published: Thu, Feb 05, 2015

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