ABA Journal

Latest Features

Conference addresses racial equity and social justice issues for second year

The ABA Social Justice Policy Summit will be held on Dec. 8 and 9. Hosted by the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Rights of Immigrants Committee and the Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the free conference will explore interpersonal, structural and institutionalized discrimination and how to achieve necessary reforms in the new administration.



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SCOTUS considers whether public tuition program for private schools can exclude religious ones

The U.S. Supreme Court’s latest case about the Constitution’s religion clauses hails from Maine, where the state has paid tuition to send some students to private schools for more than a century but for the last 40 years has limited the choices to “nonsectarian” schools.



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Can C-suite diversity officers really make a difference?



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Guardianship battles in the spotlight spark new calls for reform



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For some civil rights lawyers, police body camera video can be hard to come by

Many civil rights attorneys seeking body camera video find police departments, officials and judges can stand in their way. Sometimes, according to lawyers and legal experts, the video is selectively released or edited. That can leave lawyers with little choice but to file a lawsuit and use discovery and subpoena power to obtain recordings, delaying justice for families wanting a more complete picture of what happened to their loved ones. Even so, police say there are good reasons to withhold, edit or redact footage to protect the privacy rights of people who appear on camera and prevent interference in ongoing investigations.



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Is the right to assemble and demonstrate under threat?

Legislators who are now seeking to restrict protesters say the measures are necessary to establish law and order; provide security; protect businesses; ensure the free flow of highways; and distinguish between peaceful protesters and rioters. But free speech experts warn that the legislative trend against protesting is harmful to fundamental First Amendment freedoms.



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State of the Profession 2021: BigLaw proved to be most resilient to COVID-19

Fears that COVID-19 would cause a prolonged financial blow to the legal industry did not come to fruition. Instead, many firms were able to quickly and effectively transition to remote working, which left them in position to assist with an array of COVID-19-related legal issues. But the industry’s successful transition to widespread remote working has not come without drawbacks.



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ABA observers will share their takeaways from the UN climate change conference in Glasgow

Next week, ABA members who attended and observed COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, will share their takeaways from the annual summit and ideas for how others can get involved.



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Advokat

This short story was the winner of the 2021 Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction



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Lawyers call on members of the profession to defend voting rights

“We’re lawyers. If we’re not speaking up for this issue, who will?” says Lauren Stiller Rikleen of Lawyers Defending American Democracy, a group pushing for more attorneys and firms to take action against the restrictions.



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Are remote learning and burnout to blame for declining bar pass rates?

Bar exam pass rates dropped in July 2021, and some fear another decrease for 2022 graduates nationally because most candidates will have experienced at least half their legal education during the pandemic. Related problems mentioned by academics include getting used to online learning, isolation, anxiety and exhaustion.



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Do face coverings help or hinder defendants?

Before her fall from grace, Elizabeth Holmes’ ability to court and charm establishment luminaries fueled her meteoric rise as head of Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos. In her ongoing criminal fraud trial, she might be hoping she can work the same magic on jurors. But could wearing a mask weaken her defense and make her less likable in the eyes of the jury?



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ABA grants will help legal services providers reach more veterans in Texas

The ABA Military and Veterans Legal Center earlier this year awarded a total of $100,000 in grants to three nonprofit organizations that deliver legal services to veterans in Texas.



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Will California be the next state to permit nonlawyer paraprofessionals?

The State Bar of California is considering a proposal to have the Golden State join a small number of other jurisdictions in permitting nonlawyer paraprofessionals to provide legal advice and undertake other tasks typically handled by attorneys.



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Can real estate disclosure laws protect buyers from the supernatural?

Real estate agent Nancy Blaker Weber is no stranger to old ghost stories swirling around a grand Victorian house nestled on the banks of the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. Decades ago, the family living in it reported levitations, apparitions and other strange happenings. But that didn’t stop Blaker Weber from selling the home for a third time in June.



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Supreme Court revisits Second Amendment with challenge to New York concealed-gun restrictions

When two residents of upstate New York sought unrestricted licenses to carry concealed weapons for self-defense outside the home, officials denied their applications under the state’s demanding standard for such permits. Those relatively routine administrative actions have teed up the most important Second Amendment case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in more than a decade.



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Has COVID-19 made the workplace more accessible for lawyers with disabilities?

Since March 2020, most law firms and legal organizations have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing their employees to work remotely and transition to more flexible hours. For some lawyers with disabilities, teleworking has brought significant benefits, including increased access to their clients and colleagues and to more job opportunities.



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Considering mask fights, states may hold off on making COVID-19 vaccine required school immunization

Lawyers interviewed by the ABA Journal disagree on whether requiring the vaccines is the best approach for keeping children in schools, but most agree the virus has caused significant work for school administrators, many of whom are still dealing with pushback on masking rules.



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ABA Commission on Immigration offers students 'hands-on' experience with people in detention

“A lot of people frequent the hotline, so you build a relationship with these callers who are really trying their best to understand the process,” says Emma Yznaga, who was an intern with the ABA Commission on Immigration’s Detention and Legal Orientation Program Information Line for four months.



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ABA internship for law students with disabilities spurs young lawyer’s work at IT company

Lawyer Derek Bolka credits an American Bar Association internship for kick-starting his career at Accenture, an information technology services company, where he is now an inaugural fellow of a legal program for lawyers with disabilities.



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University of Montana faces Title IX complaints, including from law students

Following a Title IX lawsuit brought by former administrators and a current professor at the University of Montana, law students at the school claim they were dissuaded from filing administrative complaints alleging repeated use of slurs in the classroom and sexual misconduct.



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Online dispute resolution promises to increase access to justice, but challenges remain

Court leaders say an online dispute resolution program, known as LA-ODR, is part of their ongoing efforts to enhance access to justice for self-represented litigants through the use of technology. A 2019 California Justice Gap Study found that 55% of Californians at all income levels experienced at least one civil legal problem in their household in the prior year, but nearly 70% of them received no legal assistance.



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Prosecutors are working toward the release of the longest-serving inmates

Historically, most prosecutors haven’t felt responsible for examining cases closed by their predecessors to determine whether everyone’s punishments fit their crimes. The prosecutors in these offices, however, are pushing their field to adopt changes to address mass incarceration and sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system.



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As more courts use facility dogs, some defense lawyers object

In a justice system that can sometimes appear hostile, facility dogs can comfort child witnesses as they talk about the most traumatic experiences of their lives. Because the dogs lie at children’s feet in the witness box, jurors may never see them. But according to some defense lawyers, when judges say witnesses will be assisted by canines, that makes them appear more sympathetic or believable, violating the due process rights of their clients.



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