Executive Director's Report

A House in Order

The House of Delegates Has an Ambitious Agenda Set for This Year’s Midyear Meeting

Posted Feb 22, 2006 2:58 AM CDT
By Robert A. Stein

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As the national voice of the legal profession, the American Bar Association addresses critical issues of law and public policy, develops association policies, and engages in legislative advocacy to improve the administration of justice and the legal profession.

The ABA ensures that the policies it adopts and advocates represent the breadth and depth of the legal profession through the broad representation of the profession in our House of Delegates. Chaired by Stephen N. Zack of Miami, the House, which dates back to 1936, comprises 550 delegates that are elected by ABA members and represent every state bar as well as larger local bars, ABA sections and divisions, and other national legal organizations. The U.S. attorney general and the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts are members of the House by virtue of their offices.

The House meets twice a year, in February and August, to conduct its business. Policy recommendations come to the House by way of reports from ABA sections, committees, affiliated organizations, state and local bar associations, and individual members. Constructive debate is an art that is well-honed in the House of Delegates. Each issue receives a full and fair hearing—often accompanied by passionate advocacy on all sides—before it is voted on.

A Wealth of Policy Initiatives

The ABA addresses policy in virtually every area of the law—from administrative to zoning law. For those who want to better understand the intricate world of policy, an excellent source of information on how to prepare and present policy resolutions to the House is available online. Developed by the ABA’s Division for Policy Administration, it is titled “Policy Made Easy.”

The House’s agenda for this year’s midyear meeting encompasses an exciting array of issues, including uses of the Freedom of Information Act; restrictions on foster care based on sexual orientation of foster parents; resolutions on multiple aspects of immigration law; resolutions on legislation that would require medical malpractice cases to be placed in health courts; a call for greater pro bono involvement by all lawyers and for their employers to adopt policies that make it possible for lawyers to fulfill that responsibility; resolutions for legislation on tort based asbestos-related claims; requests for adoption of several uniform acts; and a proposal for an international uniform law on affidavits.

In addition to establishing ABA policy, the House elects officers of the association and members of the Board of Governors upon nominations of its Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee presents its nominations for officers and members of the Board at the midyear meeting in February, and the House votes on these nominees at the annual meeting in August.

The House has the sole authority to amend the association’s constitution and bylaws. It authorizes ABA committees and sections and sunsets them as well. It also sets association dues upon recommendation of the Board of Governors.

The House has several standing committees and special committees, including Credentials and Admissions, which considers questions relating to delegate credentials; Rules and Calendar, which assists the chair in handling House business, reports on proposals to amend the rules of procedure, prepares the preliminary calendar for each House meeting, and makes recommendations on the order of business and late reports; and the Scope Nominating Committee, which makes nominations for membership on the Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work, the House committee charged with review of all ABA entities to prevent overlap and duplication.

Other important committees include the House Select Committee, which sends out the preview of the House agenda and conducts orientation meetings for new House members, and the House Technology Committee, which makes recommendations on communications between members and their constituencies.

For further information on the workings of the House of Delegates, contact the ABA’s outstanding director of policy administration, Alpha Brady, at 312-988-5155 or via e-mail at bradya@staff.abanet.org.

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