The American Bar Association recently held its 2022 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. The event included three days of continuing legal education programs on topics ranging from politicization and polarization of the courts to spyware and the threat it poses to civil liberties. The House of Delegates, the governing and policy-making body of the ABA, also met and voted on several resolutions outlining the ABA’s official policy on several controversial issues.
The House of Delegates works like a legislative branch of government. According to an instructional video on how an idea becomes ABA policy, the House of Delegates is made up of nearly 600 members, some of which represent state, local, and special-focus bars. They draft, debate, and approve resolutions that present a unified position on what the legal profession will say to courts, Congress, governments, and bar associations. The instructional video encourages interested parties to draft resolutions backed up by detailed reports for vote by the House of Delegates and participate in House Caucuses organized by affinity groups or relevant ABA Sections and Divisions.
The ABA recently published an article highlighting some significant actions taken by the House of Delegates at this year’s meeting. This includes resolutions that “protect those involved in the abortion process or advocates of reproductive rights from civil and criminal penalties,” one that “urges the repeal of the federal law . . . that allows for the sale of a firearm to be finalized after three business days have expired,” and revisions to the ABA Election Administration Guidelines and Commentary that cover areas like voter registration, accessibility and voting by mail or absentee balloting. Some would argue that these featured resolutions favor a more liberal ideological view.
Not only does the ABA represent the “voice” of the legal profession, but it also plays a significant role in shaping the future of it. The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions is the only entity recognized by U.S. Department of Education to accredit legal education programs. This process generates millions of dollars for the ABA in accreditation application fees and gives it immense influence over law schools that need accreditation in order to survive.
The ABA has positioned itself as the governing body of the legal profession and judge of what entities are qualified to provide legal education to future attorneys. Yet many of their programs and positions are highly politicized and do not represent the views of a significant portion of the legal profession or America in general. It is unclear whether we will ever be able to have an honest conversation about this issue or whether the governance of the legal profession will continue its slide towards becoming an insular group with one-sided ideological views.
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