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ABA Critical of US Atty Firings

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Updated: A watered-down resolution on the controversial firing of nine U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department has passed the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates, which wound up its final day of business today in San Francisco.

Plus, Alabama lawyer Tommy Wells was picked to head the ABA in 2008.

On Monday, the House passed a resolution urging Congress to hold the CIA to the same interrogation standards used by the military, which prohibits techniques that many believe constitute torture. Also, the 546-member House stood opposed to law firm policies that require partners to retire at a specified age.

The ABA Journal live-blogged from the floor of the House, updating this site as debates unfolded and votes were taken.

Updated: A watered-down resolution on the controversial firing of nine U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department has passed the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates, which wound up its final day of business today in San Francisco.

Plus, Alabama lawyer Tommy Wells was picked to head the ABA in 2008.

On Monday, the House passed a resolution urging Congress to hold the CIA to the same interrogation standards used by the military, which prohibits techniques that many believe constitute torture. Also, the 546-member House stood opposed to law firm policies that require partners to retire at a specified age.

The ABA Journal live-blogged from the floor of the House, updating this site as debates unfolded and votes were taken. This live blog is sponsored by Sprint, and powered by our Sprint mobile broadband card. ABA members get special discounts from Sprint on cell phones and broadband cards.

Resolutions that we link to are in the form they were originally submitted to the House. They may have been revised prior to or during debate, and we’ll note major changes to their language in the entries below.

10:50 a.m. PST: House Stands Adjourned

The House has adjourned – but not before its large California delegation sang “California Lawyers,” to the tune of the Beach Boys “California Girls.” The next meeting of the House will be in Los Angeles at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February.

10:45 a.m. PST: Take a Lawyer to Lunch

Ten months into his job, ABA Executive Director Hank White told the House that “the ABA is the only institution whose work touches every single American every single day in every single way.”

He asked why less than a third of America’s 1.1 million lawyers are members of the ABA. In surveys of U.S. lawyers, some respondents label the ABA as “an undistinguished association that does not compel membership,” he said.

To combat that perception, White called on House members to take a colleague to lunch, and educate them about the importance of ABA activities – to both members and the profession at large. “Our appeal for membership must be both personal and compelling,” he said.

10:30 a.m. PST: ABA Finances Looking Good

ABA Treasurer William Robinson of Kentucky told the House there’s a “real possibility” the ABA may be able to extend its freeze on dues increases from three years to four or even five years, based on the current financial outlook.

The ABA is almost a $300 million enterprise, with an annual operating budget of more than $190 million, he said.

“We are in fine shape financially,” he said.

10:20 a.m. PST: Wells Chosen as ABA President-Elect

H. Thomas Wells Jr. of Alabama – known to almost everyone as Tommy – has been formally elected as president-elect of the ABA. Races for ABA offices almost always take place during the years-long nomination process, not during the formal vote. But he was unopposed during his entire race.

“We are all lawyers who are committed to our profession’s excellence,” he told the House. “Our aim is and our aim always will be to strengthen our association and our profession and our justice system under the rule of law.”

“I thought in high school that I would follow my father into a career in dentistry,” he said. But a youth in government program at the YMCA in his small Alabama town convinced him to become a lawyer.

He emphasized many of the hot button issues for ABA leadership: independence of the judiciary, independence of prosecutors, the rule of law, and diversity of the profession.

Members of Congress know “we stand for principle over partisanship,” he said. Taking a dig at those who think the ABA is a liberal organization, he said “there’s only one L word that accurately describes our association, and that is ‘lawyer.’”

“We have a singular opportunity to hit the ground running” with a new administration in the White House in 2008, with a chance to push the ABA’s agenda forward, he said.

“Let us work together, not to make a dollar, but a difference.”

9:40 a.m. PST: Explosives, Civil Trial and Civil Rights Measures Pass

The House has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following:

Resolution 300: Urges the United States to sign and ratify the amended Article 1 and Protocol III, Protocol IV, and Protocol V of the United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious or To Have Indiscriminate Effects, which ban the use of incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons, as well as set standards on marking, clearance, removal, and destruction of unexploded or abandoned mortar shells, grenades, artillery rounds, and bombs.

Resolution 301: Adopts the black letter of the revised and/or new Standards that have been integrated into The Civil Trial Practice Standards to become the Updated Civil Trial Practice Standards which address practical aspects of trial that regularly recur but are not fully addressed by rules of evidence or procedure.

After debate, the House rejected a motion to table the following motion, passing it by a voice vote:

Resolution 302: Urges Congress to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.§ 2000e-5(e), to ensure that in claims involving discrimination in pay, the statute of limitation runs from each paycheck reflecting an improper disparity.

ABA President William Neukom, immediate-past President Karen Mathis and Tommy Wells, who will be named president-elect later this morning, all backed the proposal.

9:10 a.m. PST: ABA Criticizes Firing of U.S. Attorneys

A watered-down resolution on the controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department has passed the House. Resolution 10C originally called for the ABA to study and make recommendations for how U.S. attorneys can be insulated from political pressure. Before the House session began, a new version was issued which merely says the ABA “supports the principle” that the selection and operation of U.S. attorney offices “should be insulated from improper partisan political considerations.”

Robert Weinberg of Virginia, who introduced the measure, noted that it’s not the first time the ABA has taken this stand. “We did adopt a very similar policy during the Nixon administration,” he said. “It’s not a partisan issue for us, it’s a professional issue.”

The resolution passed on an overwhelming voice vote;.no one spoke in opposition.

An attempt to further water down the measure failed on an overwhelming voice vote. That proposed amendment would have called only for non-partisan operation of the offices, but would have allowed for partisan selection of U.S. Attorneys. Neal Sonnett, a former federal prosecutor in Florida, said “we need to appoint to these offices the best people. We cannot afford to water down this resolution in any way.”

8:43 a.m. PST Tuesday: House is Under Way

The House is back in session, and expected to conclude its business today no later than 11 a.m. PST. A resolution on the firing of U.S. Attorneys is first up on the House’s agenda.

5:36 p.m. PST: House Has Recessed for the Day

The House of Delegates will return at 8:30 a.m PST on Tuesday, and expects to wrap up its business by 11 a.m., according to House Chair Laurel Bellows.

5:35 p.m. PST: House Rejects Change in PTO Attorney Rules

After the lengthiest debate of the day, the House rejected Resolution 118A, which calls on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to recognize foreign attorneys who pass PTO competency exams.

The measure was defeated by a vote of 238 against to 149 in favor – the first vote of the day close enough to end in an actual count, rather than a voice vote.

Proponents said foreign lawyers admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court bar or who pay taxes in the U.S. have been barred from appearing before the PTO. Foreign lawyers who practice overseas can represent foreign clients before the PTO, but foreign lawyers based in the U.S. cannot. It is the only federal agency with this kind of rule, proponents said. It’s an issue of protectionism, they said. It will aid the U.S. in getting foreign markets opened to U.S. trade.

Donald Dunner of Washington, D.C., who chairs the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law, countered that the PTO has tried to open markets on a reciprocal basis for patent lawyers. He asked, “given the refusal of almost every country in the world except Canada to reciprocate, why do we think they will change their colors” if the U.S. goes first and allows foreign attorneys to practice before the PTO?

4:40 p.m. PST: Neukom is New ABA President

ABA President Karen Mathis has passed the gavel to President-Elect William Neukom, a partner in Seattle’s K&L Gates and former general counsel of Microsoft.

The centerpiece of his year in office will be the World Justice Project, an ambitious undertaking the goal of which is to identify and measure how the rule of law can be a tool for creating what Neukom describes as communities of economic opportunity and social equity. It will cost $7.5 million, of which $6.5 million have already been raised. All the funds will come from sources outside the ABA.

Neukom told the House “the ABA is guided by a set of lasting principles. Defending liberty and delivering justice. The challenges we face today…are complex. Many of the problems we face in this country are similar to the problems of other countries.”

He said his other principal projects will be:

Structure and management of the ABA: “Surely we should be asking whether we’re making the best use of our resources at our disposal.” The ABA will adopt “goals-based management,” he said.

Communication and collaboration: Working across “silos” within the ABA, and with state, location and other national bar associations.

Fighting discrimination: ABA has broadened its Goal 9 to include those who face discrimination because of their sexual orientation. A commission was appointed in June to work on those issues.

4:05 p.m. PST: Medical and Election Measures Passed

The House has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following resolutions:

Resolution 120B: Supports the study of regionalization of the nation’s Emergency Care System and Emergency Departments and the enactment of legislation and promulgation of rules, specifically as it relates to disaster preparedness, as an effective and efficient means of improving patient safety, health care quality, cost reduction, coordination of care, and increased accountability of the system.

Resolution 121: Urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to improve the administration of elections to facilitate voting by all individuals with disabilities, including people with cognitive impairments that increase in frequency with age.

Resolution 122: Urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to maintain the Medicaid eligibility of otherwise-eligible incarcerated persons and provide continuity of health care to persons newly-released from custody.

3:47 p.m. PST: House Slams Bush CIA Order

The House has adopted Resolution 10B, which calls on Congress to hold the CIA to the same interrogation standards used by the military, which prohibits techniques that many believe constitute torture.

The strongly worded measure passed on an almost unanimous voice vote, and no one spoke in opposition.

Barbara Opotowsky, executive director of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, told the House that President Bush’s July executive order “allows the CIA to continue to use waterboarding and sleep deprivation, so long as the intent is to get intelligence or prevent another attack, rather than to humiliate the person being interrogated.”

“The use of official cruelty is far from the best means to extract information, and it has made our [military personnel] vulnerable,” she said.

3:30 p.m. PST: Justice Kennedy on Rule of Law

“The work of freedom has just begun,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy told the ABA House today, accepting the ABA Medal the association’s highest award.

As a practicing lawyer in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Kennedy said he would tell the jury about the movie 12 Angry Men. “I said to the jury that the film is meaningful because they learn not just about the case and the law, but about themselves,” he recalled.

“I was on my way home, and wondering whether it was effective. Then I realized that I was really talking about myself. In every legal proceeding, the law is on trial. Our duty is to concentrate on the case before us. But as people seeing justice, we cannot help but ask whether what we’re doing is fair in the longer course of time.”

“This is the reason why judges and attorneys must never cease asking, ‘Why am I doing this? What inner voice is telling me to decide the case this way?’”

“If we can come to an understanding about why we think the way we do, we can understand how this accords with some principle of justice.”

The rule of law takes time to take root in countries that don’t have it, and their citizens are impatient for justice, he said. “There aren’t 12 angry men, there are 12 times 12 million.”

“We must find narrative stories to tell these young people. You can tell them about the 8- or 9-year-old girls who are sold by their families to become objects for the most depraved acts for people called tourists.”

“You can tell them about an official regulation in the Republic of the Congo, that victims of rape must pay a fee of $5 before they can file a complaint.”

“You can say, ‘You’re right, there is crime, oppression and injustice. Here is a cause for your youth, your passion and your energy. The law is with you. It need not be a barrier to progress.”

In addition to the medal, ABA President Karen Mathis gave Kennedy – a huge baseball fan – a ball signed by Hank Aaron. President-Elect William Neukom gave him a ball signed by Barry Bonds, the new home run king.

2:45 p.m. PST: Hurricane Measure Passes After Revision

A resolution on Hurricane Katrina was radically revised in the days before today’s session, and that was enough for it to be passed by an overwhelming voice vote.

Originally, Resolution 116B urged Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the preparedness for, and the immediate and ongoing responses by, federal, state and local governments to Hurricane Katrina, and to recommend appropriate measures designed to prevent or mitigate problems in responding to natural disasters in the future.

As revised, it calls on the commission to “recommend these appropriate measures required to rebuild the infrastructure of the Gulf Coast…” There’s no mention of looking backward to assess who was at fault.

Harry Hardin of Louisiana recounted the ravages that Hurricane Katrina visited on the Gulf Coast – infrastructure crushed, shrimp boats tossed into marshes, whole towns destroyed. “The next time, it may be Florida, it could be Georgia, it could be Manhattan. We need a larger vision to deal with these unprecedented national disasters,” he said.

2:37 p.m. PST: State Secrets Measure Passes

The House has passed Resolution 116A, which calls on judges to avoid whenever possible dismissal of civil suits where the government claims the state secrets privilege.

Richard Macias of California said the measure calls for courts to make more probing inquiries of government claims that a civil suit cannot be litigated without disclosure of state secrets, and to press the government to provide non-secret information in lieu of classified materials sought by the plaintiffs.

The resolution does not require the disclosure of information to the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s counsel, even if the counsel has a security clearance, he said. It doesn’t require that the court balance the plaintiff’s interest with the government’s need to keep information secret. If a judge finds disclosure of information would reveal state secrets, the case would be dismissed.

Only if the government unreasonably refuses to provide the plaintiff with non-privileged information as a substitute to the state secrets would the government be disadvantaged under the resolution’s rules.

Neal Sonnett of Florida said the measure would “increase the independence of the judiciary.”

The measure passed on a voice vote, almost unanimously. No House members spoke in opposition.

2:29 p.m. PST: A Break for Military Personnel

Without debate and with a unanimous voice vote, the House passed Resolution 115 (PDF), calling on bar associations and similar groups to waive association dues, CLE requirements and other membership obligations for members who are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in a combat zone.

The ABA already waives dues for such members.

2:10 p.m. PST: IBA President Slaps Bush Administration

International Bar Association President Fernando Pombo of Spain took a not-so-veiled poke at the Bush administration during his address to the ABA House of Delegates.

Recalling a resolution against torture his 30,000-member organization passed at its annual meeting last year in Chicago, he said “Some countries of the world were at risk of forgetting that all persons are equal before the law, including enemy combatants. They’re entitled to a lawyer and entitled to being accused. Torture should never be permitted.”

1:55 p.m. PST: One Measure Withdrawn, 2 More Passed

Resolution 112, calling for approval of the Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology dated August 2007, was withdrawn by its sponsor, the ABA Section of Family Law. It expects to bring it back to the House at its Midyear Meeting in February, after other ABA entities weigh in on its wording.

The House has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following resolutions:

Resolution 113: Adopts eleven principles to govern the planning, preparation and training for responses to a major disaster to ensure that the legal system maintains fidelity to the rule of law.

Resolution 114: Urges amendment of the No Child Left Behind Act to ensure that all students experience high-quality civic learning.

12:06 p.m. PST: House at Lunch

The House of Delegates has recessed for lunch. They are scheduled to return at 1:30 p.m. PST. Justice Kennedy’s speech at approximately 3 p.m. and the debate over what constitutes torture that will immediately follow it look to be the highest-profile items on the afternoon schedule.

12:05 p.m. PST: International Measures Pass

The House has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following five resolutions that involve international issues:

Resolution 110A: Urges governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and other organizations to consider and integrate Rule of Law initiatives with global environmental issues.

Resolution 110B: Encourages corporations, lawyers, law firms and other professionals to promote corporate citizenship by supporting: compliant and ethical corporate behavior globally; global pro bono services; promotion of the rule of law; encouraging governments to pursue policies that support corporate citizenship and the rule of law; and sharing best practices in corporate citizenship.

Resolution 110C: Urges Congress to pass legislation that strengthens protection and assistance for victims of trafficking in persons, both citizens and noncitizens, and encourages bar associations to engage members of the legal profession in raising awareness of trafficking in persons in their communities and in providing pro bono legal services to victims of trafficking.

Resolution 110D: Adopts the Principles on Judicial Independence and Fair and Impartial Courts, dated August 2007.

Resolution 110E: Supports the following international standards on judicial independence: The United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary; The International Bar Association Minimum Standards for Judicial Independence; and The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, and urges the United States government to support these standards.

11:43 a.m. PST: More Measures Pass

The House is moving through its agenda with considerable dispatch. It has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following resolutions:

Resolution 105: Urges bar associations and courts to develop, adopt, promote and implement programs and procedures to encourage and enable lawyers to plan for law practice contingencies by designating in advance another lawyer who is willing and able to assume the lawyer’s practice or to assist in the transfer of client matters and files. This would be in the event that the lawyer has any physical or mental disability that impairs the lawyer’s ability to practice law, or the lawyer has died, disappeared, been suspended or disbarred, or otherwise been restricted from the practice of law.

Resolution 107: Urges Congress to amend Title X, Part C of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to clarify that the Act applies to all children and youth in foster care and to significantly increase funding to support the school stability, enrollment, attendance, and success of all eligible children and youth.

Resolution 109 (PDF): Adopts the black-letter Standards of Practice for Attorneys Representing Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking in Civil Protection Order Cases, including the preface, dated August 2007.

11:32 a.m. PST: Listening to a Computer

Scott LaBarre of Colorado, who is blind, held his computer up to the microphone to allow a computerized voice to read his introduction of Resolution 108, which calls on members of the legal profession to make their Web sites accessible to individuals with visual, hearing, manual and other disabilities.

If computers cannot read Web sites, those with certain disabilities will be unable to learn what’s on them, he said. He compared it to curb cuts in sidewalks to make them accessible to wheelchairs.

No one spoke in opposition, and the measure passed by an overwhelming voice vote.

11:20 a.m. PST: Youth Measures Pass

The House has passed, without debate and through overwhelming voice votes, the following:

Resolution 104A: Encourages bar associations, judges and attorneys to lead and promote efforts to create comprehensive support and services for youth who “age out” of foster care (“transitioning youth”) and other former foster youth until at least age 21, and urges amendment of applicable law, and court and child welfare practices.

Resolution 104B: Encourages measures to promote the permanent placement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the foster care system in LGBTQ-friendly homes and that protect LGBTQ youth in the homeless youth and foster care systems from discrimination and violence.

Resolution 104C: Encourages jurisdictions to pass laws that require the provision of evidence-based pre-court diversion and early intervention services for youth who are alleged to have committed status offenses, such as truancy, ungovernability or running away and supports the use of in-home or community-based services as an alternative to secure detention.

11:05 a.m. PST: Law Student Pro Bono Activities

Two years ago, the House adopted a law school accreditation standard that requires law schools provide substantial opportunities in pro bono activities. Today’s Resolution 103A clarifies that those pro bono matters must include at least some law-related activities. Schools may still offer non-law-related activities.

No one spoke in opposition, and it passed on a voice vote.

10:55 a.m. PST: House Sidesteps Abortion Issue

In the early to mid-1990s, the House generated enormous controversy by taking stands on abortion. The issue has come back frequently, but generally been largely ignored, since then.

Ned Jacobs of the U.S. Virgin Islands told the House it should vote for Resolution 11-1, which would add as a purpose of the ABA the duty to defend the right to life of all human beings, including those unborn.

Rather than vote on the measure, the House voted by an overwhelming voice vote to “postpone indefinitely” consideration of it.

10:45 a.m. PST: House on Mandatory Retirement Policies

By a voice vote, the House approved Resolution 10A that calls on law firms to abolish mandatory retirement age policies.

10:40 a.m. PST: Law Firm Retirement Policies, Part 2

John Barry of Florida, representing the National Organization of Bar Counsel, told the House that “this debate is of vital importance” because of the aging attorney population. Firms that dismiss lawyers of a certain age “unnecessarily waste the talents of senior lawyers,” he said.

D. Gibson Walton, president of the State Bar of Texas, said it “would be a serious mistake for the ABA. Mandatory retirement at most firms is an agreed contract between the partners. This has worked well in our firm. I’ve also literally seen the opposite destroy a wonderful firm in Houston. It’s a matter of choice.”

Andrew Susko, president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, said “just as we’ve supported civil rights for all citizens, we should apply the same rights for lawyers. We don’t want to be perceived, as lawyers, as having a separate set of rules. We cannot, and this resolution does not, seek to impose a practice on any firm. It simply says partners ought to be judged on their merit.”

Carol Dinkins of Texas, the outgoing chair of the ABA Journal Board of Editors, said “the Association should not dictate to professional partnerships how to mange their partners.” Firms can allow for senior lawyers to stay on past a mandatory retirement age, she noted. “It’s much easier to ask someone to stay than it is to ask someone to leave.”

The debate continues.

10:30 a.m. PST: Mathis’ Season of Service

Reflecting on her year as ABA president, Karen Mathis of Denver told the House that “as a lawyer, home is where we get a chance to serve. Home is where we challenge injustice. I’ve felt at home with America’s lawyers and, indeed, the world’s lawyers.”

Detailing ABA efforts to combat human trafficking, mentor disadvantaged youth, and improve the lives of children in foster care, Mathis said her year in office has “been a season of service.”

A member of the baby boomer generation herself, Mathis said “400,000 lawyers will be retired from the full-time practice of law in the next 10-15 years. We’re not going to be a generation who sets our briefcase on the ground and takes the golf clubs to the country club for the entire day.” She praised the work of ABA members who created the Second Season of Service web site, which pairs up older lawyers with volunteer legal opportunities.

On a more controversial topic, she said “the ABA will fight and long and hard, and will not stop fighting, for the right of habeas corpus.” The law that stripped jurisdiction to hear habeas cases from the federal courts was “very misguided.”

10:05 a.m. PST: Law Firm Retirement Policies

In a resolution sure to warm the hearts of aging baby boomers, the New York State Bar Association calls on law firms to cease to require partners who reach a certain age to retire.

Speaking in support, Mark Alcott of New York told the House “those policies are not in the interests of law firms, in the interests of clients, and certainly not in the interest of the lawyers themselves.”

Because law firms are partnerships, courts have ruled they are not bound by the law that prevents corporations from discriminating based on age – what Alcott called “a loophole.”

“The witching hour keeps getting younger, as young as 62 at some firms,” Alcott said. “And some policies are linked to noncompete clauses that require the partner to leave the practice of law entirely, or give up their pension” if they don’t.

Esther Lardent of Washington, D.C., said in opposition that the resolution supports a “one-size-fits-all” solution. “There are firms in which mandatory retirement works effectively, with an eye toward profits and professionalism,” she said. But about half of the major law firms in the country require retirement when partners reach a certain age. The ABA shouldn’t “tell firms how to operate,” she said.

The debate has been suspended for Karen Mathis’ address to the House.

9:20 a.m. PST: House Begins Work

House Chair Laurel Bellows of Chicago has gotten the 129th meeting of the House under way. It began with the presentation of colors (Marine Color Guard is seen preparing below). Former ABA President (and former Detroit Mayor) Dennis Archer gave the invocation.

Housekeeping matters should take up the next 20-30 minutes.


9:10 a.m. PST: Still Not Under Way

It’s 10 minutes after the House was supposed to be under way, and there’s no sign it’s about to begin, as delegates mill about in the aisles. True to form, the House is operating on ABA Standard Time.

8:59 a.m. PST: Monday’s Special Events

Several so-called special orders are on the House’s docket today.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will receive the ABA Medal – the Association’s highest honor – at 3 p.m., and address the House at that time. Consideration of the resolution on torture of enemy combatants and the Geneva Conventions will follow that speech.

Fernando Pombo, president of the International Bar Association, will speak to the House at 1:45 p.m.

And the presidency of the ABA will pass from Denver’s Karen Mathis to Seattle’s William Neukom today. Mathis will speak to the House at 10 a.m., and Neukom will talk at 4 p.m.

All times Pacific.

8:40 a.m. PST: Top Issues on House Calendar

Composed of representatives from all 50 state bar associations, major local bars and ABA sections, the ABA’s House of Delegates is the closest thing the U.S. legal profession has to a representative body. House resolutions often carry great weight with Congress, courts and state legislatures.

Among the most interesting resolutions on the House calendar are measures that urge:

– Law firms to abolish mandatory retirement for partners who reach a certain age.

– Congress to override the President’s July Executive Order concerning treatment of detainees, which proponents of the resolution claim altered the government’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

– The Department of Justice to insulate U.S. Attorneys from political pressure.

– Courts to make “every effort to avoid dismissing a civil action” based on the state secrets privilege.

– Congress to create an independent commission to investigate government responses to Hurricane Katrina.

– The United States to sign and ratify U.N. Conventions that “ban the use of incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons,” and require unexploded explosives to be disposed of.

8:35 a.m. PST: Inside the House Chamber

The House is meeting in an enormous space in the Moscone Convention Center. Delegates are being asked to take their seats.


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