ABA Midyear Meeting

Immigration, access to justice and homeless youth among topics on tap at ABA Midyear Meeting

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Though the setting will be Canadian when the ABA Midyear Meeting opens in Vancouver, British Columbia, many of the key topics of discussion will be legal issues Americans are grappling with.

The midyear meeting, which is officially open from Wednesday, Jan. 31 to Tuesday, Feb. 6, is an annual event where the ABA House of Delegates gathers to vote, and many special and standing committees have meetings and planning sessions. CLE sessions and panel discussions will also be offered, with the bulk taking place Friday and Saturday.

On Monday, the House of Delegates, the official policymaking body of the association, will consider resolutions on several topics of public interest. A preliminary list of the resolutions proposed for consideration can be found here, although resolutions can be withdrawn or amended before the formal votes.

Two proposed resolutions that build on the ABA’s longtime concerns about access to justice for low-income people are Resolution 114, which urges governments to provide court-appointed counsel in any legal proceeding that may result in a loss of liberty, even if it’s a civil proceeding or was not started by the government; and Resolution 107, which calls on the federal courts to make free or inexpensive lawyers available to low-income people through pro bono panels.

In a time with a renewed focus on sexual harassment and assault, Resolution 302 asks employers, particularly legal employers, to adopt and enforce policies against harassment and retaliation based on sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and the intersection of sex with race or ethnicity. It’s sponsored by the Commission on Women in the Profession.

Of interest to litigators is Resolution 108D, from the Criminal Justice Section, which calls on jurisdictions to prohibit peremptory challenges to jurors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This would extend the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Batson v. Kentucky, which prohibited peremptory challenges based on race. (The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the practice in 2014.)

Building on a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning the death penalty for youth under 18, Resolution 111 calls on governments to prohibit death sentences for anyone under 21. The resolution, from the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, calls on research showing that young adults aren’t fully mature at 18—but, per ABA policy, expressly does not take a stance on capital punishment itself.

And several resolutions ask the federal government to rescind decisions, including two from the Criminal Justice Section. Resolution 108E asks for reconsideration of the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; and Resolution 108C asks the Justice Department to restore prosecutorial discretion and use the ABA Standards on the Prosecution Function in revising charging and sentencing guidelines. From the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice comes Resolution 116A, which asks the Justice Department to withdraw its interpretation of the Civil Rights Act that leaves employers free to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, several panels at the meeting reflect its Canadian location. In Saturday’s “Lessons Across Borders: What the U.S. and Canada Can Teach One Another About Establishing a Successful Immigration Policy,” immigration lawyers from both nations will discuss a bill pending in Congress, the RAISE Act (an acronym for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) and how well similar restrictions on legal immigration have served Canada. It’s sponsored by the ABA Commission on Immigration and the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities. At a Friday luncheon called “The Challenges for Women in Politics – Both Personal and Professional,” co-sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association British Columbia, Women Lawyers Forum, the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, two speakers with personal experience in the subject will be brought together: former British Columbia Justice Minister Susan Anton and current Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

As part of one of ABA President Hilarie Bass’ priority projects, on Friday the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty will lead a site visit to a local youth shelter, followed by a roundtable discussion on meeting the legal and personal needs of that population. The new ABA Homeless Youth Legal Network, which Bass helped establish, is a sponsor of “ABA and Canadian Legal Needs of Homeless Youth Learning Exchange: Improving Outcomes by Removing Legal Barriers,” along with the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.

Follow along with our full coverage of the 2018 ABA Midyear Meeting

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