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Midyear Meeting

Stand your ground laws, human trafficking and legal education on tap at ABA Midyear

Posted Feb 7, 2013 10:14 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Criminal justice issues are on the agenda as the ABA Midyear Meeting kicks off this week in Dallas.

Up for discussion are stand your ground laws, the treatment of human trafficking victims, cybersecurity threats and indigent defense improvements.

Stand your ground laws are getting increased scrutiny since lawyers for George Zimmerman indicated he was initially considering the defense in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Florida’s law, passed in 2005, doesn’t require people to retreat when they are threatened outside their homes. The newly created ABA National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws will hold the first of four regional public hearings in Dallas on Friday to assess the greater social impact of such laws, according to an ABA press release.

The fight against human trafficking is a priority for ABA President Laurel G. Bellows. In an ABA Journal column published in September, Bellows explained why the issue is so important. According to the U.S. State Department, 21 million people—mostly women and children—are trapped in modern-day slavery worldwide as a result of human trafficking. Bellows saw the problems firsthand when she handled prostitution cases as a young lawyer. These women “were victimized by traffickers, prosecuted in the courts and then left without supportive services—such as job training or housing placement—that would have increased their opportunities for independence,” she wrote.

Three midyear meeting programs address the problem of human trafficking; two focus on laws to battle the crime and a third deals with lawyering for child victims. Three resolutions before the policy-making House of Delegates on Monday also focus on the issue, including a measure endorsing safe-harbor laws for victims.

Also on the agenda:

• A public hearing on Saturday is sponsored by the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, formed last summer to address how law schools and the ABA should respond to concerns about the economy and delivery of legal education.

• Programs on Friday and Saturday address cybersecurity as it relates to the lawyer-client relationship and national security. Cybersecurity is another of Bellows' priority issues. “Cyberattacks are happening thousands of times a day, and some of the most vulnerable targets are law firms,” she told the ABA Journal in a February article. “We’re fooling ourselves if we think there aren’t efforts to reach client information through us.” She also said a major cyberattack against the United States could cause immense damage to the nation’s technological capabilities.

• A summit on indigent defense improvements on Saturday considers national developments.

The midyear meeting takes place from Feb. 6 to Feb. 11.

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