Rights of Guantanamo Detainees and Military Personnel, Immigration Reform, Post-Catastrophe Relief, Among Issues Addressed by ABA Policy-Making Body

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Measures Critical to Legal Profession and Nation Passed by ABA Policy-Making Body

The American Bar Association House of Delegates today adopted nearly three dozen new measures as ABA policy, including critical proposals affecting the rights of military personnel and Guantanamo detainees, immigration reform and relief after disasters.

To view the actions taken by the House, click here.

Among significant policies passed, the House voted to urge the Obama administration to ensure that any detainees who are expected to be charged with crimes be prosecuted in federal district courts, unless the attorney general certifies they cannot be prosecuted in such courts but can be prosecuted in other regularly constituted courts consistent with due process, the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Delegates also urged that any detainees no longer considered to be enemy combatants be released or resettled, and any currently detained enemy combatants be granted prompt habeas corpus hearings with full due process.

Additionally, the House overwhelmingly opposed the imposition of federal jurisdiction over child custody cases involving members of the military. The House urged that states enact legislation to prohibit denial of custody to a servicemember based solely on absence due to military deployment.

The House also passed a resolution to help ensure access to justice and due process for those charged with civil immigration violations. This act was partly a reaction to a notable immigration enforcement action taken last year when 400 workers at a Postville, Iowa, plant were arrested without due process.

Two separate House resolutions dealt with a change to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically addressing firm-to-firm lateral hires of lawyers. Prior to House action, a rule prohibited lateral-hire lawyers from representing clients with whom their new firm has a conflict of interest without a waiver from the affected clients. Both proposals set out to ease prohibitions on client representation, and after vigorous debate, the House approved the resolution requiring screening of lawyers to resolve such conflicts.

Other House resolutions included a set of comprehensive measures seeking to reduce harm and litigation after catastrophes. Citing recent disasters such as the California wildfires and flooding in the Midwest, the House adopted these measures, including ones that urge broadening the availability of insurance protection for storm damage, enacting programs to increase the availability of affordable insurance, establishing federal standards for damage-resistant building codes and encouraging capital markets to finance catastrophic risk, among other goals.

In other action, the House voted to urge prompt access to legal counsel for child victims of criminal conduct, encourage legislation enabling permanent legal residents of the United States to sponsor partners of the same sex for permanent residency and to urge the federal government to create an infrastructure in support of adult guardianship. Watch videos of prominent speakers and events at the Midyear Meeting, hear views of members attending and more at the Midyear Meeting Online Web site at http://www.abavideonews.org/ABA548/

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Editor's Note: The recommendations, as acted upon, are available online. Or, for additional information, contact ABA News at 312-988-6171 or 202-662-1090.

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Jason Fujioka

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