I have the privilege of serving the Denver Bar Association as a delegate to the American Bar Association (“ABA”) House of Delegates. The ABA House of Delegates met at the ABA’s midyear meeting held in Dallas, Texas on February 11, 2013. The agenda was relatively light. This Article summarizes the House of Delegates events at the midyear meeting and the action taken by the House.
The House opened with a welcome speech by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Senator Hutchinson thanked the House for its leadership in maintaining the integrity of the profession and ensuring the quality of judges.
ABA President Laurel Bellows also spoke to the House. She thanked the House for the privilege of serving as President. She discussed the concept of justice as fairness. She raised important questions on how best to improve the quality of justice delivered and how to make justice more accessible. She also discussed the Gender Equity Task Force and commented on the fact that it is addressing issues of unfairness to women, including inequity of pay to women lawyers. Additionally, President Bellows discussed human trafficking and the ABA initiatives relating to the epidemic of human trafficking. Finally, President Bellows discussed promoting programs supporting law students and young lawyers, as well as reforms to legal education.
After hearing some other speeches, the House got to work on resolutions submitted to the house. First, the House passed Resolution 108, which encouraged practitioners, when appropriate, to consider limiting the scope of their representation, including the unbundling of legal services as a means of increasing access to legal services. The House also considered and approved three resolutions relating to administrative law.
Additionally, the House considered and approved Resolution 109 which supported the position that United States Bankruptcy Judges have the authority, upon the consent of all the parties to the proceeding, to hear, determine, and enter final orders and judgments in those proceedings designated as “core” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 157(b) but that may not otherwise be heard and determined by a non-Article III tribunal absent consent. The House voted to revise the resolution and later approved it.
The House considered nine resolutions relating to issues of criminal justice. Those were as follows:
- Resolution 104A – Indigent Defense. The Criminal Justice Section urged the adoption of Resolution 104A, as revised, which urged Congress to establish an independent federally funded Center for Indigent Defense Services for the purpose of assisting state, local, tribal and territorial governments in carrying out their constitutional obligation to provide effective assistance of counsel for the defense of the indigent accused in criminal, juvenile and civil commitment proceedings. The House adopted the resolution as revised.
- Resolution 104C – Prohibiting Retaliatory Discharge Against Public Defenders. The Criminal Justice Section also urged the House to adopt Resolution 104C. Resolution 104C urged state and local governments to enact legislation to prohibit the retaliatory discharge of a Chief Public Defender or other head of an indigent defense services provider because of his or her good faith effort to control acceptance of more clients than the office can competently and diligently represent. The House adopted the resolution.
- Resolution 104D – Increased Funding for Prosecutor Training. The Criminal Justice Section moved the House to adopt Resolution 104D, which urged the federal government to restore, maintain, and, where appropriate, increase funding to organizations which provide training to state and local prosecutors, to better promote justice, increase public safety, and prevent wrongful convictions. The House approved the resolution.
- Resolution 104E – Investigation of Immigration Status of the Accused. Fourth, the Criminal Justice Section asked the House to adopt Resolution 104E, which urged courts to ensure that defense counsel inquires and investigates a juvenile defendant’s immigration status and informs the juvenile about any possible collateral consequences that may flow from different dispositions of the case. The resolution also sought to minimize adverse immigration consequences. Several revisions were made to the resolution and the House adopted it, as revised.
- Resolution 104F – Victims of Human Trafficking. Additionally, the Criminal Justice Section urged the House to adopt Resolution 104F, as revised. Resolution 104F urged governments to enact laws and regulations and to develop policies that assure that once an individual has been identified as an adult or minor victim of human trafficking, that individual should not be subjected to arrest, prosecution or punishment for crimes related to their prostitution or other non-violent crimes that are a direct result of their status as an adult or minor victim of human trafficking. The House approved the resolution as revised in the House.
- Resolution 104G – Affirmative Defenses for Victims of Human Trafficking. Consistent with President Bellows’ focus on Human Trafficking, the Criminal Justice Section also moved the House to adopt Resolution 104G, which urged governments to enact legislation allowing adult or minor human trafficking victims charged with prostitution related offenses or other non-violent offenses to assert an affirmative defense of being a human trafficking victim. The House revised the resolution and later adopted it.
- Resolution 104H – Vacating Convictions for Victims of Human Trafficking. The Criminal Justice Section further moved the House to adopt Resolution 104H, which urged governments to aid victims of human trafficking by enacting and enforcing laws and policies that permit adult or minor victims of human trafficking to seek to vacate their criminal convictions for offenses related to their prostitution or other non-violent offenses that are a direct result of their trafficking victimization. The House approved the resolution as revised.
- Resolution 104I – Training Relating to Human Trafficking. As the final human trafficking resolution, the Criminal Justice Section and the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence jointly urged the House to adopt Resolution 104I, which was revised. Resolution 104I urged bar associations to work with judges, lawyers, and other professionals with subject matter expertise in human trafficking, to develop and implement training programs for judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, law enforcement officers, immigration officials, civil attorneys, and other investigators that will enable them to identify adult and minor victims of human trafficking and enable them to direct victims and their families to agencies that offer social and legal services and benefits designed to assist adult and minor victims of human trafficking. The House approved Resolution 104I as revised.
- Resolution 104J – Model Charge for Grand Juries. Finally, the Criminal Justice Section moved the House to adopt Resolution 104J, which urged the Judicial Conference of the United States to amend the Model Grand Jury Charge to clarify that the Grand Jury should be instructed to vote separately on each defendant. After hearing the arguments in support of the resolution, the House passed it without revision.
Additionally, the House considered several resolutions proposed by the Ethics 20/20 Commission. The resolutions largely sought amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, or other Model Rules, to address the realities of increasing lawyer mobility. The Ethics 20/20 Commission resolutions are discussed in turn.
First, the House approved revised Resolution 107A, which approved proposed amendments to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(b) and the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law) to allow foreign lawyers to serve as in-house counsel in the United States, as long as the foreign lawyers not advise on United States law except in consultation with a U.S.-licensed lawyer. There was a variety of interesting debate and discussion on this resolution. Ultimately, the House passed Resolution 107 as revised.
Second, the Ethics 20/20 Commission urged the House to adopt Resolution 107B. Resolution 107B proposed amendments to the ABA Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel so that the model rule would permit foreign lawyers to serve as in-house counsel in the United States with some restrictions. The House revised the resolution and adopted it.
Third, the House considered Resolution 107C, which proposed amendments to the ABA Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission. The amendments were designed to provide judges with guidance about whether to grant limited and temporary practice authority to foreign lawyers to appear in courts in the United States. There was some interesting discussion prior to the House, and during the House debates, on the resolution. Ultimately, after an amendment, the House adopted the resolution.
Finally, the Ethics 20/20 Commission urged the House to adopt Resolution 107D, which proposed amendments to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.5. Rule 8.5 relates to choice of law applicable to conduct standards and lawyer discipline. The proposed amendments were designed to address common choice of law problems that are more frequently occurring in the context of conflicts of interest. The House approved the resolution.
The House considered a number of resolutions in addition to the nine resolutions proposed by the Criminal Justice Section and the four resolutions urged by the Commission on Ethics 20/20. Those are described below:
- Resolution 10A – Court Funding Crisis. The New York State Bar Association moved the House to adopt Resolution 10A, which urged federal elected officials to adequately fund the federal courts and the Legal Services Corporation as they negotiate deficit reduction with the imminent threat of the implementation of sequestration if they fail. The House approved the resolution.
- Resolution 101A – Patentable Subject Matter. The Section of Intellectual Property Law moved the House to adopt Resolution 101A, which was revised. Revised Resolution 101A provided that the ABA would support the principle that laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not eligible for patenting as a process under 35 U.S.C. §101, even if they had been previously unknown or unrecognized. The House approved the resolution as revised.
- Resolution 101B – Standards for Finding Direct Infringement. Additionally, the Section of Intellectual Property Law urged the House to adopt Resolution 101B, which supported clarifying the standards for finding direct infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a) for a patent directed to a multiple-step process in the fact situation where separate entities collectively, but not individually, perform the required steps of the patented process. After a revision, the House approved the resolution.
- Resolution 106 – Principles for Jury Trials. As its one resolution, the Commission on the American Jury Project asked the House to adopt Resolution 106, which proposed amendments to the 2005 ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials. The amendments were to Principles 1(C) through (F), 6(C), 10(C) and 11(A) of those Principles. After an interesting discussion in support of the resolution, the House approved the resolution.
- Resolution 100 – Medicare Reimbursements. The ABA’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability moved the House to adopt Resolution 100. Resolution 100 supports timely and efficient resolution of requests from a claimant or applicable plan for conditional payment reimbursement amounts where Medicare has a right to reimbursement from a recovery by way of settlement, judgment or award. The resolution also urged Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish reasonable time limits and procedures for responding to such requests. The House approved the resolution.
Finally, the House of Delegates also considered a number of uniform acts proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. It is fairly typical for the House to consider proposed uniform laws at its meetings. The three uniform laws that the House considered were the Uniform Asset Freezing Orders Act, the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, and the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act. The House approved all three resolutions.
I hope this Article sufficiently highlighted many of the more interesting or important the agenda items considered by the House of Delegates at the midyear meeting in Dallas. The annual meeting this year will be in August 2013 in San Francisco. I appreciate all input that any members of the Denver Bar Association have regarding any of the issues that have been considered, or will be considered, by the ABA House of Delegates.