Posted Aug 01, 2008 12:00 pm CDT
This column is written by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA relating to issues being addressed by Congress and the executive branch of the federal government.
The ABA’s little green book isn’t so little anymore. The Policy and Procedures Handbook—familiar to members of the House of Delegates because of its distinctive forest-green cover—has grown from a 6-by-9-inch booklet that could easily be tucked into a briefcase into a larger version that’s more like a telephone directory. The part of the book that compiles current ABA policies—those adopted by the House within the past decade—now runs more than 150 pages.
But the size of the now-big green book wasn’t what bothered Laurel G. Bellows in August 2006 when she became chair of the House, the ABA’s policy-making body. Her concern was that there was so little awareness of the impact the resolutions summarized in the book have had on lawyers and government policies and on how the justice system serves the public.
So Bellows created the Resolution and Impact Review Committee to develop a process for tracking the dissemination and implementation of House resolutions—and for making that information available to ABA members and others outside the association.
“I take tremendous pride in the work of the House of Delegates and the legal expertise and commitment of the lawyers who serve there,” says Bellows of Chicago. “As a member of the Illinois delegation, it became clear to me that even current delegates are unaware of the results of their work. I sensed an urgent need to inform members and the public about the effect that ABA policies have on the practice of law, on legislation and on our way of life.
“In establishing this new committee,” Bellows adds, “my hope was to gather facts supporting the implementation of House resolutions so that delegates involved in drafting and advocating policy change could measure the impact of their efforts.”
And now, as Bellows nears the end of her two-year term in the ABA’s second-highest office, the committee is preparing to post impact assessments of House resolutions on the ABA website, at abanet.org/leadership/rirc.html.
Faced with the daunting task of compiling that information, the 14-member committee—headed by chair C. Elisia Frazier of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and vice-chair L. Jonathan Ross of Manchester, N.H.—focused its initial review on resolutions adopted between 2001 and 2005, some 280 measures sponsored by 74 different entities, as well as recently added resolutions from ’06.
“The process opened our eyes to the tremendous reach of the policies and the amount of work done by the various ABA entities,” Frazier says. The committee found that ABA policies influence legislation at both the federal and state levels, serve as starting points for amicus curiae briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and other tribunals, and provide the bases for standards and model rules relating to the legal profession.
The committee website will include information on the entities that sponsored resolutions before the House.
Thomas M. Susman, the new director of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, says impact assessments on House resolutions will be useful to his staffers who lobby before Congress and with the executive branch in support of ABA policies. “ABA policy resolutions matter,” he says, “and the work of the impact review committee should prove valuable for both the House of Delegates and the Governmental Affairs Office.”
No decision has been reached on whether to make the review process permanent, but Bellows says the committee’s initial efforts have important benefits.
“Without the work of the committee,” she says, “ABA members, the public, members of our government and lawyers who are not yet members of our association would be unable to measure the extraordinary success of the ABA in turning words into action to accomplish its mission of defending liberty, and pursuing and delivering justice.”