Diversity and inclusion issues to be considered at ABA meeting

The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, is scheduled to consider several social justice issues as well as model regulatory objectives for the delivery of nontraditional legal services at its Midyear Meeting in San Diego next month.

The House, made up of 560 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country, meets Feb. 8 at the Harbor Ballroom (Harbor Tower, 2nd level) of the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The one-day session caps the Midyear Meeting, which begins on Feb. 3.

The range of social legal issues encompasses previously approved resolutions with ones offered for the first time. Resolution 10B, for example, re-affirms ABA support for constitutional equality for women through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Similar resolutions endorsing the ERA were approved by the House in the 1970s.

Resolution 102 urges legislatures to repeal or amend all statutes criminalizing consensual noncommercial sexual conduct in private and between persons who have the legal capacity to consent. The resolution would not seek repeal of criminal statutes for behavior that is nonconsensual, commercial or public, or that involve individuals who lack the legal capacity to consent.

Several resolutions are aimed at expanding diversity and inclusion in the legal and corporate arenas. Resolution 107 encourages state licensing and regulatory authorities that have mandatory or minimum continuing legal education requirements to include, as a separate credit, those programs regarding diversity and inclusion for the legal profession. Resolution 116 urges U.S. public companies to diversify their boards to more closely reflect the diversity of society and the U.S. workforce. And Resolution 117 asks bar admission authorities to consider the impact on minority applicants in deciding whether to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination.

Acknowledging changes in the legal marketplace, such as Rocket Lawyer and limited license legal technicians in Washington state, Resolution 105 sets out 10 regulatory principles that each state’s highest court be guided by as it assesses existing regulatory framework and any other regulations related to non-traditional legal service providers. The principles include broad concepts such as protection of the public, transparency of services and delivery of affordable and accessible legal services.

Altogether, the House could consider as many as 30 resolutions. Others include:

• Supreme Court transparency: A resolution proposed by the Young Lawyers Division urges the U.S. Supreme Court to record and make available video recordings of its oral arguments. [110]

• Sports agent guidelines: The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is offering a resolution to approve the Revised Uniform Athletes Agents Act, developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, as an appropriate path to follow for those states seeking to adopt laws governing sports agents who seek to represent student athletes. [115a]

• Children’s health: Four different ABA entities are proposing a resolution asking state and local child welfare and juvenile justice agencies to provide adequate resources for assessing and treating
emotional and behavioral disorders of children in their custody, including psychosocial and clinical interventions, recreational opportunities and supportive services that can reduce the need for prescribing psychotropic drugs. [111]

• Patent payments: The Section of Intellectual Property law is seeking to pass a resolution that opposes imposition of government’s attorney fees on a party challenging a decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in federal district court, unless the statute in question explicitly directs the courts to award attorney fees. [108a]

• Attorney privilege: A resolution proposed by 10 entities, including five state and local bar groups, urges legislative bodies to establish an evidentiary privilege for confidential communications between a client and a lawyer referral service for the purpose of retaining a lawyer or obtaining legal advice from a lawyer. [113].

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.

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