ABA Midyear Meeting

ABA House adopts resolution shifting delegate seats in California and North Carolina

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The ABA House of Delegates approved a resolution Monday awarding the voluntary state bars in California and North Carolina delegate seats relinquished by the mandatory state bars in those states.

The passage of Resolution 200 at the 2020 ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas, results in the California Lawyers Association receiving two new seats in the House.

Those seats are in addition to the five seats that the House approved transferring to the CLA from the State Bar of California at the 2019 ABA Midyear Meeting. The state bar will retain one seat.

The House’s approval of Resolution 200, which passed without any audible opposition, also gives the North Carolina Bar Association five of the six seats that the North Carolina State Bar relinquished last year.

The House took up the issue early Monday morning, so that the voluntary state bars’ new delegates could be certified and seated for the rest of the House’s session.

California’s state bar began giving up some of its 11 delegate seats in the aftermath of a legislatively mandated de-unification that was effective in 2018 and split off its sections to form the California Lawyers Association.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2020 ABA Midyear Meeting here.

In a November 2019 letter to the House’s Committee on Credentials and Admissions, the California bar said it wanted to give up five of its six remaining delegate seats to the CLA as the final step in the separation of its work from the voluntary association. The CLA wrote a letter to the committee that same day seeking the five seats.

“CLA views the opportunity to participate even more fully in the critical work of the House with this transfer as being essential to the performance of its mission,” wrote CLA President Emilio Varanini.

The North Carolina State Bar informed the ABA in an August 2019 letter that it was relinquishing all six of its delegate seats in the House. The bar’s letter did not give a reason why the decision was made.

In light of the California and North Carolina mandatory state bars relinquishing their delegate seats, the House has formed a working group to examine issues surrounding state bar participation in the policymaking body.

The group, chaired by immediate-past ABA President Bob Carlson, has been tasked with developing recommendations by the 2020 ABA Annual Meeting that could address the issues voiced by some bars.

Working group member Janet Welch, the State Bar of Michigan’s executive director, said it will be important for the panel to remember that each state bar is unique.

“It doesn’t surprise me that there are different conclusions in different places about how to approach the interaction with the House of Delegates,” she said.

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