Annual Meeting

Outgoing president lauds ABA's new efforts against human trafficking, 'a stain' on our nation


Outgoing ABA President Laurel Bellows.
Photo by Tony Avelar

Outgoing ABA President Laurel Bellows, giving the end-of-her-term speech to the ABA House of Delegates, highlighted accomplishments of the past year that show “why lawyers matter” and encouraged them to continue the fight on a variety of key issues for justice and equality.

“It’s a really good day when the attorney general of the United States is my warm-up act,” Bellows quipped as she began her address to the ABA’s 560-member policy-making body at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Just moments earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the group to announce sweeping changes in DOJ policies and other efforts to end over-incarceration and make the criminal justice system more efficient and effective.

Bellows’ year stood out for accomplishments in signature projects, especially on human trafficking and in developing proposed ABA policy on cybersecurity.

“I was on a mission to remind every American lawyer that what lawyers do should truly matter,” Bellows said. They are not simply agents for commerce or resolvers of conflict, she said: “We should be part of the fabric that holds our society together.”

Bellows noted achievements during the year that reflected ABA policy concerning gender equity, battling human trafficking and seeking solutions to cyberattacks on law firms, corporations and government entities.

Bellows said that when she first spoke to the House of Delegates a year-and-a-half ago about the “scourge in America” of human trafficking, many of them had never heard of it.

She called human trafficking, which often involves forcing individuals into the commercial sex trade or involving domestic workers in abusive situations, “a stain on our claim that we are the land of the free.

“And now we’re actively engaged in fighting it,” Bellows continued. Moments earlier, the House had adopted a resolution supporting a template for human trafficking legislation promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, titled the Uniform Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act.

The Uniform Law Commission was responding to a 2010 proposal from the ABA Center for Human Rights.

“My year ends, but the fight for fundamental freedoms begins and continues,” Bellows said.

Bellows would be handling the ABA president’s gavel over to James Silkenat about five hours later.

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