Report on the ABA Midyear Meeting

Issue May 2005

Prepared by Kay H. Hodge,
Massachusetts State Delegate

The 66th Midyear Meeting of the American Bar Association was held Feb. 9-14 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. A wide variety of programs were sponsored by committees, sections, divisions and affiliated organizations. The House of Delegates met for a one-day session. The Nominating Committee also met.

The Nominating Committee sponsored a "Meet the Candidates" Forum on Sunday, Feb. 13. The following candidates seeking nomination at the 2006 Midyear Meeting gave speeches to the Nominating Committee and to the members of the Association present: William H. Neukom of Washington, candidate for president-elect; and Laurel G. Bellows of Illinois and C. Timothy Hopkins of Idaho, candidates for chair of the House of Delegates.

The House of Delegates

The House of Delegates met on Monday, Feb. 14. Stephen N. Zack of Florida presided as chair of the House. He noted that the Fund for Justice and Education is the educational arm of the association and that charitable contributions are needed to fund the critical activities of the association. The ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to minority law students as part of the ABA's initiative to encourage and support diversity in the legal profession, is an FJE project. He requested that all members of the House who have not already donated to the FJE to do so and to ask others in the ABA to do so as well.

He advised that ABA Day in Washington, D.C., will be held April 27-28, and that by participating, ABA members can help persuade senators and representatives of the importance of the governmental priorities of the association. The personal contact of ABA member constituents to those in Congress is integral to the success of the ABA's lobbying efforts.

House members were reminded of Michael S. Greco's appointments process for 2005-06 and that the deadline for submitting applications is March 1. Applications must be submitted electronically through the ABA Web site.

Chair Zack announced the names of the members of the Scope Nominating Committee which are: Zack; Christopher L. Griffin of Florida, chair of the Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work; Walter H. White, Jr. of London, chair of the Program and Planning Committee of the Board of Governors; Mitchell A. Orpett of Illinois, chair of the Section Officers Conference; and Michael E. Flowers of Ohio, immediate past chair of the Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work. Those interested in serving on the Committee of Scope were asked to submit applications by March 18 to any member of the Scope Nominating Committee.

Secretary Ellen F. Rosenblum of Oregon moved approval of the House of Delegates Summary of Action from the 2004 Annual Meeting, which was subsequently approved by the House. On behalf of the Board of Governors, Rosenblum presented and referred the House to Report Nos. 177 and 177A, the board's Informational and Transmittal Reports, and Report No. 177B regarding the association's legislative priorities.

ABA President Robert J. Grey, Jr. of Virginia addressed House members regarding the need for investigating allegations of mistreatment of persons held in US military custody. He said that spreading democracy and the need for confidence in the military's integrity require nothing less, and that the ABA would participate in establishment of a commission appointed by President Bush.

Regarding the attorney-client privilege, Grey reminded the delegates that it enables the attorney to provide more effective advice. From the public's standpoint, preserving this aspect of the client-lawyer relationship ensures that corporate managers on complex or questionable legal matters will seek the lawyer's advice. He said the ABA would lead the effort to educate policymakers and the general public on the importance of preserving the attorney-client privilege.

In the area of equal access to justice, Grey said the American justice system is failing when the poorest defendants are not provided with trained and prepared defense counsel. He urged lawyers to call on state lawmakers for increased funding for indigent defense.

Treasurer Allan J. Joseph of California referred the House to his detailed written report, and then reported on the following: The Board of Governors, elected leaders and staff are meeting the goal of updating financial policies and practices resulting in operations that are realistic and sustainable. A dues increase is not recommended at this time. Dues income is the primary source of revenue to the association. All agencies of the ABA must coordinate their activities to recruit new members while maintaining the existing membership base.

ABA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Robert A. Stein of Illinois referred to his written report and noted that membership numbers continue to reflect the high regard of lawyers for the ABA. Staff responded positively to address financial concerns of the association during the past year, both participating in the thinking leading to action and implementing the resulting cost-saving policies and strategies. The new offices will facilitate association operations at a savings.

Report of the Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee met Sunday, Feb. 13. On behalf of the committee, James R. Silkenat of New York, chair of the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee, reported on the following nominations for the terms indicated:

Officer of the Association
President-Elect (2005-06): Karen J. Mathis of Colorado.

Members of the Board of Governors (2005-08)
District Members: Richard T. Cassidy of Vermont (District 1); Rosemary E. Giuliano of Connecticut (District 2); Roderick B. Mathews of Virginia (District 4); Harry S. Hardin III of Louisiana (District 6); and David E. Funkhouser of Iowa (District 12).

Section Members-at-Large: Don S. DeAmicis of Massachusetts (Section of International Law); and Raymond J. Werner of Illinois (Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law).

Minority Member-at-Large: Alison R. Nelson of Michigan.

Woman Member-at-Large: Carol E. Dinkins of Texas.

Young Lawyers Member-at-Large: Suzanne E. Gilbert of Florida.

Incoming President-Elect Mathis made brief remarks to the House and stated that the job of the president-elect of the ABA is to serve. She acknowledged the extraordinary service of each House member, and the ABA collectively, including that of the Young Lawyers Division, the General Practice Section, the Litigation Section and the CEELI, African, Asian, South American and Iraq Law Initiatives. Mathis also acknowledged the extraordinary leadership of Grey and his undertaking of the American Jury Initiative.

During her year as president, Mathis intends to build upon the tradition of service. She stated there is a need for service as the baby boom generation ages and retires. Lawyers can dedicate drive and energy to serving our communities. Last, as lawyers, there is a special obligation to the citizens of the world who often struggle to develop and maintain the rule of law. Mathis said she will continue the work of Grey and President-Elect Greco and urged lawyers to work together to enhance and strengthen the important work of the Association.

Recommendations voted on by the House

A brief summary of the action taken on recommendations brought before the House follows. The recommendations are categorized by topic areas and the number of the recommendation is noted in brackets.

Administrative Law [114] On behalf of the Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, Thomas M. Susman of Washington, D.C. moved revised Recommendation 114, urging Congress to amend and modernize the adjudication provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act and to expand certain fundamental fair hearings provisions of that Act by enacting legislation consistent with the draft bill entitled, "Federal Administrative Adjudication in the 21st Century", dated February 2005. The recommendation was approved as revised.
Asbestos Litigation[109A] On behalf of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Hervey P. Levin of Texas moved Recommendation 109A, urging the federal government to undertake an urgent study of the impact that the federal government has had in the causation of asbestos-related injuries over time and identifying the appropriate role for the federal government in the solution of the present asbestos litigation crisis, without altering the responsibility of others. The recommendation was approved.
[300B] On behalf of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Levin moved revised Recommendation 300B, recommending that states and territories establish by statute or regulation, standards for the operation of screening vans or other forms of mass screening for asbestos-related conditions to prevent medical screenings from being conducted inaccurately and being misused, but not to prevent legitimate monitoring of health. The recommendation was approved as revised.
[300C] On behalf of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Levin moved Recommendation 300C, recommending that states and territories adopt the Model Statute of Limitations for Asbestos, dated February 2005, governing the accrual of actions for injury, illness or wrongful death based upon exposure to asbestos. The recommendation was approved.

Criminal Justice[108A] On behalf of the Criminal Justice Section, Neal R. Sonnet of Florida moved revised Recommendation 108A, urging jurisdictions to enact statutes to adequately compensate individuals who have been convicted and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit and identifying factors that should be considered in drafting such statutes. The recommendation was approved as revised.

[108B] On behalf of the Criminal Justice Section, Stephen A. Saltzburg of Washington, D.C. moved Recommendation 108B, urging federal, state, local and territorial governments to reduce the risk of convicting the innocent, while increasing the likelihood of convicting the guilty, by ensuring that no prosecution should occur based solely upon uncorroborated jailhouse informant testimony. The recommendation was approved.
[108C] On behalf of the Criminal Justice Section, Sonnett moved revised Recommendation 108C, urging federal, state, local and territorial governments to reduce the risk of convicting the innocent by establishing standards of practice for defense counsel in serious non-capital criminal cases. The recommendation was approved as revised.

[301] On behalf of the Criminal Justice Section, Saltzburg moved Recommendation 301, urging Congress to take specified steps to assure that federal sentencing practices are effective, fair and just, and effectuate the goals of sentencing set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act. The recommendation was approved.

Homelessness and Poverty [111] On behalf of the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, William H. Hoch of Oklahoma moved Recommendation 111, urging Congress and the President to support the establishment of a federal affordable housing trust fund to increase the availability of affordable housing consistent with certain principles. The recommendation was approved.
Immigration Law [112] On behalf of the Commission on Immigration, Richard Pena of Texas moved Recommendation 112, supporting the repeal of annual numerical caps that result in undue delays in the granting of lawful permanent residence to those individuals who have already been granted asylum status in the United States. The recommendation was approved.
Individual Rights and Responsibilities [104] On behalf of the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, C. Elisia Frazier of Georgia moved revised Recommendation 104, opposing governmental actions and policies that interfere with patients' abilities to receive from their healthcare providers (a) all of the relevant and medically accurate information necessary for fully informed healthcare decision-making; and (b) information with respect to their access to medically appropriate care, whether or not the provider chooses to offer such care. Frazier noted that the report accompanying the recommendation had been revised to address concerns raised by various entities and individuals as it relates to the purpose of the recommendation. Charles Weiss of Missouri and Kathleen Burke of Ohio spoke in opposition to the recommendation. Howard T. Wall III of Tennessee and President-Elect Michael S. Greco of Massachusetts spoke in support. The recommendation was approved as revised.

Intellectual Property Law [102] On behalf of the Section of Intellectual Property Law, Donald R. Dunner of Washington, D.C. moved Recommendation 102, supporting enactment of legislation providing that the right to a patent shall belong to the inventor who first files an application for patent containing an adequate disclosure under 35 U.S.C. ß112 of the invention or, in the event of an assignment of rights, shall belong to the assignee thereof. Kenneth G. Standard of New York and Sharon Stern Gerstman of New York spoke in opposition stating that the recommendation would stifle creativity and hurt small inventors. Q. Todd Dickinson of Connecticut and Rick D. Nydegger of Utah spoke in support of the recommendation.