Posted Feb 01, 2012 11:45 am CST
The ABA Midyear Meeting returns to New Orleans today, six years after Hurricane Katrina forced the association to move its midyear gathering out of the city.
To ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, the meeting has symbolic significance. “In returning to New Orleans, we hope the ABA will demonstrate its continuing respect for the resiliency of the residents to recover from one disaster to the next,” Robinson tells the ABA Journal. “These are talented, courageous people, and their spirit of recovery is admirable.”
The 2012 meeting includes some high-profile speakers and panelists, including Justice Antonin Scalia, Attorney General Eric Holder, Theodore Olson, David Boies and former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. Nearly 800 events are scheduled, including two programs exploring the impact of funding cuts on the justice system.
“We have solid advance registration,” surpassing the number of registrants for last year’s midyear meeting in Atlanta, according to Marty Balogh, director of the ABA Meetings and Travel Department. There are 3,318 ABA members registered for the New Orleans meeting and 1,005 guests, for a total attendance of 4,323 people.
ABA members who would like a word or two with a U.S. Supreme Court justice can attend “A Conversation with Justice Scalia” scheduled for Saturday. During the program, former Boston University law dean Ronald Cass will engage Scalia in a conversation about his views on judging and constitutional interpretation. The justice will also answer audience questions. That evening, Scalia will receive the Distinguished Honorary Fellow Award from the American Bar Foundation
Holder will speak on Saturday during a Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement. It is one of several programs touching on criminal justice topics ranging from fetal alcohol syndrome and the law to cybercrime.
Boies and Olson, co-chairs of the ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, will appear at a forum on Saturday discussing solutions to justice system funding cuts. On Friday, Cobb will appear at a related program titled “The Cost of Justice: Ensuring Access to Justice When There’s No Money.”
The funding problem is a concern for Robinson, who tells the ABA Journal his policy priorities “begin and end with the crisis of underfunding for courts across the country.” Robinson, of Florence, Ky., cites statistics by the National Center for State Courts showing that 47 states have seen court budget cuts in just the past two years.
The ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates meets Monday. Among the agenda items are resolutions that would:
•Urge accommodations for disabled LSAT test takers.
•Urge easier bar admission for lawyers forced to move because they have military spouses.
• Urge respect for the independence of the organized bar. The resolution is sponsored by the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, which has asked the Supreme Court to hear its challenge to a law restricting the bar from promoting religious or political ideas.