Annual Meeting

Anticipation is high for House speeches by Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder

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Hillary Clinton


Eric Holder

Updated: The ABA House of Delegates faces an agenda of resolutions that should keep it busy until about midday Tuesday, but the early buzz is over two legal superstars who will address the House on Monday.

The House convenes at 9 a.m. Monday at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, the site of the 2013 ABA Annual Meeting. The House, which numbers 560 members, sets policy for the association.

At 10 a.m., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will give his first speech to the House since addressing the body at the annual meeting in 2009, the year he was appointed by newly elected President Barack Obama.

In 2009, Holder gave a general outline of the new administration’s crime policy. This time around, Holder is expected to announce a new policy aimed at averting hefty mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or drug organizations.

Citing senior department officials, the Washington Post reported late Sunday that the policy to be announced by Holder is part of a comprehensive prison reform package.

According to excerpts of Holder’s remarks given to the Post, Holder plans to explain that, “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason. We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”

The Post reports that DOJ lawyers have worked for months on the proposals, which “Holder wants to make the cornerstone of the rest of his tenure.”

There has been no hint at whether Hillary Rodham Clinton might give any kind of major speech when she appears before the House at 3 p.m. to receive the ABA Medal, the association’s highest award.

But there is no question that there is excitement about Clinton’s appearance, which will require anyone who is not a member of the House, ABA staff or the news media to have a ticket to enter the ballroom to hear her speak. Longtime House members and staff were scratching their heads trying to think of whether there has been such a requirement before, but it appears to be an unprecedented step.

The former First Lady, who also served as a U.S. senator from New York and as U.S. secretary of state until early in President Obama’s second term, is widely viewed as a leading, if unannounced, candidate to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2016.

Clinton has enjoyed a warm relationship with the ABA through much of her legal and political career. In 1987, she became the first chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and in 2005, she received a special award from the commission.

“For Hillary Clinton’s immense accomplishments as a lawyer, the strides she made for women both professionally and civically, and for promoting the interests of the U.S. and human rights abroad, she not only deserves this honor, but also the gratitude of the legal profession and the nation,” said ABA President Laurel G. Bellows in a statement June 28 announcing Clinton’s award. Bellows is principal of the Bellows Law Group in Chicago.

Last updated at 11:30 p.m. to add details about Holder’s plans Monday.

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