ABA News

Atlanta attorney selected to receive ABA Medal

The American Bar Association is proud to announce that it will award Emmet Bondurant, founder of the Atlanta-based litigation boutique firm Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore, the 2024 ABA Medal.
Bondurant will accept the award at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago in August.

“The ABA Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the American Bar Association, and we are proud to honor Emmett Bondurant for his five decades of commitment to democratic values, equal protection, voting rights and indigent defense,” said ABA President Mary Smith.

Throughout his career, Bondurant has pursued justice with unwavering integrity. His exceptional success as a trial lawyer is rooted in his commitment to community service and pro bono litigation, including his advocacy for clients in significant civil rights and constitutional cases involving death penalty defense, habeas corpus work, voting rights and legislative reapportionment.

“I was surprised and humbled to have been selected to receive the ABA Medal,” Bondurant said.

In 1963, at the age of 26, Bondurant successfully argued Wesberry v. Sanders in the United States Supreme Court, which held for the first time that congressional districts throughout the United States must contain equal populations. This has since become known as the one person, one vote rule.

He has litigated challenges to state voter identification requirements in cases such as Democratic Party of Georgia, Inc. v. Perdue and Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, arguing that these laws unconstitutionally and deliberately burden the right to vote and disproportionately disadvantage vulnerable minorities. In 2018, he returned to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue Rucho v. Common Cause, urging the court to end the practice in which state legislatures deliberately draw voting districts to disadvantage residents based on their political views.

Throughout his career, Bondurant has demonstrated a commitment to fairness and racial justice in the criminal justice system through his work to improve indigent defense and his pro bono representation of some of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens. Bondurant has been an ABA member for 57 years.

Bondurant worked for years towards establishing a uniform statewide indigent defense system. His efforts culminated in the passage of the Indigent Defense Act in 2003, under the supervision of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Bondurant served as the council’s first chairman, from 2003 to 2007. He serves on the advisory board of Gideon’s Promise, an organization dedicated to realizing effective representation and equal justice for marginalized communities.

Bondurant prevailed before the Georgia Supreme Court in Fleming v. Zant, establishing for Georgia the rule that execution of the mentally impaired offends constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, a full 13 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached that same conclusion in Atkins v. Virginia.

In a groundbreaking gender equality case, Bondurant represented attorney Elizabeth Hishon in Hishon v. King & Spalding. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that law firms are subject to Title VII and prohibited from discriminating against women in partner selection.

Throughout his career, Bondurant has demonstrated his skill in various legal arenas. From reversing a $456 million patent infringement judgment against client Weyerhaeuser to providing exemplary representation for one of the world’s largest airlines in high stakes class action lawsuits nationwide, his expertise has been instrumental in securing favorable outcomes for his clients. Bondurant also served as chair of the Atlanta Charter Commission, a successful two-year effort to rewrite the 100-year-old Atlanta City Charter.

The ABA Medal is bestowed upon a lawyer for “exceptionally distinguished service ... to the cause of American jurisprudence.” Past recipients include Bill Gates, Dennis Archer, Hillary Rodham Clinton and lawyers who have served on the Supreme Court of the United States, including Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and Charles Evans Hughes, and Associate Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Lewis F. Powell Jr., Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Tom Clark and Felix Frankfurter.

ABA report criticizes widespread electronic monitoring of migrants

A new report from the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration criticizes the federal government’s widespread electronic monitoring of migrants and recommends that the program be curtailed.

The report, “Electronic Monitoring of Migrants: Punitive not Prudent,” was released last Friday and is available online at https://bit.ly/3TjrN0t.

The report was written for the commission by three students with the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law  —  Muskan Momin, Alice Min, and Niko Marcich  —  under the supervision of law professor Denise Gilman and with input and guidance from Dora Schriro, special adviser to the ABA Commission on Immigration. It expresses the opinions of the authors and is not the official policy of the ABA.

Federal authorities say they use ankle bracelets and cell phones with special apps to electronically monitor hundreds of thousands of migrants as an alternative to detention. The report calls this monitoring “de facto detention” that imposes “a significant financial cost on taxpayers and a considerable human toll on the participants and their family members.” Such monitoring is unnecessary, the report says, because most migrants “present neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community to justify either detention or electronic monitoring.”

As currently used, electronic monitoring of migrants is “punitive in nature,” the report says, because it is imposed without objective assessment of need or risk and may violate constitutional guarantees of liberty and due process. Electronic monitoring also violates ABA policy that urges limits on immigration detention and alternatives that are unnecessarily invasive, the authors write.
The report includes nine recommendations to reform the electronic monitoring program. The authors propose that electronic monitoring be “significantly reduced and only used in extraordinary cases” — when a migrant would otherwise be subject to mandatory detention or where there is specific evidence that a migrant poses a substantial flight risk or danger to the community.

Electronic monitoring of migrants began in 2004 and was significantly expanded in recent years. Migrants may be monitored at any time from the moment they reach the U.S. border until they are deported or achieve final permanent status in the United States. As of December 2023, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was electronically monitoring more than 190,000 migrants.