ABA Midyear Meeting

Diversity and inclusion will be major themes at 2016 ABA Midyear Meeting


San Diego skyline

The skyline of downtown San Diego. Photos by Earnie Grafton.

After a year when race and bias have been important parts of the national conversation—and when a woman of color is serving as ABA president for the first time—diversity and inclusion will be major topics at the ABA Midyear Meeting. The meeting is slated to start Thursday in San Diego.

The House of Delegates, which sets policy for the ABA, will discuss several resolutions that urge more inclusiveness, inside and outside the legal profession, when it meets on Monday, Feb. 8. One of those is Resolution 116 (PDF), which would urge public companies to diversify their corporate boards to better reflect our nation’s diversity.

Two other resolutions tackle diversity within the legal profession. Resolution 117 (PDF) encourages bar admission authorities to consider the effects on minorities of adopting the Uniform Bar Examination, and to include information not included on the UBE, particularly Indian law in areas with large Native American populations. And Resolution 107 (PDF) asks attorney licensing agencies with minimum continuing legal education requirements to include programs on diversity, inclusion and the elimination of bias.

Friendship Park on the border fence.

ABA members are going mobile at this meeting. On Thursday, Feb. 4, the Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice will hold a 50th anniversary celebration with a day of programming on immigration law issues, including a visit to Customs and Border Patrol at the Mexican border, organizations that do outreach to border-crossers and day laborers, and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility.

The midyear meeting’s programming also explores diversity-related topics. On Friday, Feb. 5 at 8:30 a.m., there will be a town hall meeting on “The Impact of the School-to-Prison Pipeline on LGBTQ Youth.” That event, sponsored by ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, will also feature the first airing of a preliminary report on the school-to-prison pipeline.

Later Friday, at 2 p.m., professor Joan C. Williams of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law will moderate “Why GOOD Guys Are So Important.” The acronym “GOOD” stands for “Guys Overcoming Obstacles to Diversity.” Williams will explain her research on how to spot and stop bias as it happens, with a focus on engaging men in helping women lawyers advance.

And on Saturday, Feb. 6, those attending the conference can join a visit to the Veterans Village of San Diego, a housing and treatment center for homeless veterans. San Diego has a large military population—and the fourth largest homeless population in the nation, according to a 2015 report (PDF) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The center also provides for its clients’ legal needs, including a Homeless Court program.

On Sunday, Feb. 7, the ABA’s nominating committee will consider candidates for ABA leadership roles. It’s expected to nominate Hilarie Bass, a shareholder and co-president at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, as the next president-elect; she is running unopposed. Also unopposed is Deborah Enix-Ross, senior adviser to Debevoise & Plimpton’s international dispute resolution group in New York, who’s expected to be nominated as chair of the House of Delegates—the first woman of color to be a nominee for that position. Mary L. Smith is also unopposed to be nominated as secretary-elect before beginning a three-year term as secretary starting in August 2017. Smith, a lawyer in Lansing, Illinois, is past president of the National Native American Bar Association. And three candidates will vie for the post of treasurer: Michelle Behnke, principal of Michelle Behnke & Associates in Madison, Wisconsin; Timothy Bouch, managing partner at Leath, Bouch & Seekings in Charleston, South Carolina; and Kara Smith, an assistant attorney general for the state of Oklahoma.

Updated Feb. 5 to note Smith’s expected nomination and more information about Enix-Ross’ nomination.


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