ABA Adopts Policies Revising Model Code of Judicial Conduct, Opposing Criminalization of Homelessness, Calling for Regulation of Boot Camps
MIAMI, Feb. 13, 2007 – The American Bar Association’s policy-making House of Delegates has revised the Model Code of Judicial Conduct to provide clear guidance to judges regarding their professional and personal conduct and to assure the public that effective standards exist to regulate the conduct of judges. The House met Feb. 12 to debate an array of timely issues of critical importance to the legal profession and the nation.
Changes in the Model Code include items addressing political activities of judges, prohibiting judges from making pledges or commitments regarding cases that may come before them, identifying conduct permitted for judicial election candidates, and addressing the acceptance of gifts.
In other action, the ABA House adopted a recommendation opposing laws or policies that punish the homeless for engaging in life-sustaining practices conducted in public spaces when no other alternative space is available. Such behavior would include eating, sleeping and camping. In addition, the new policy opposes enactment of statutes or policies that punish people who provide food or shelter to people who are homeless. The resolution also urges national, state, territorial and local bar associations to work in cooperation with courts, lawmakers and advocates to revise laws and policies to recognize the problems faced by the homeless when the demand for shelter and services exceeds supply.
The policy-making body also agreed to a resolution calling for the regulation of residential treatment facilities, often called boot camps, for at-risk children, as well as two resolutions to assist military personnel. The first of these reaffirmed ABA policy urging Congress to make mandatory the provision of civil legal assistance to all low-income active-duty service members and their dependents. The second urges federal, state and local lawmakers to respond to the increasing social and family support needs of the young and teenage children of deployed American military members.
The ABA Task Force on Hurricane Katrina, shortly after its creation last year, recognized the need for a model rule that would allow out-of-state lawyers to provide pro bono (free) legal services in an affected jurisdiction when an emergency affecting the justice system has occurred. New ABA policy addresses this need, and also offers a provision for lawyers from an affected jurisdiction to practice in an unaffected locale after an emergency affecting the justice system has occurred.
In other actions, the House adopted policy:
- Urging Congress to take immediate action to enact a substantial pay raise for the federal judiciary.
- Reaffirming the association’s commitment to the core values of the profession including the independence of the legal profession; expressing support for those lawyers and law firms that provide pro bono services; condemning attacks on the independence of the legal profession; and urging state and local bar associations to educate the public on the vital role that lawyers who provide services to unpopular clients or causes perform for the benefit of the American system of justice.
- Urging Congress and the Executive Branch to partner with the insurance industry to promote availability of terrorism risk insurance.
- Supporting enactment of “apology legislation” at the state and territorial levels, to enable medical providers or their staff to apologize for unanticipated outcomes of medical care relating only to pain, suffering or death, without that statement being admissible in court as evidence of an admission of liability.
- Encouraging jurisdictions to develop community supervision programs that allow less serious criminal offenders to avoid incarceration and conviction records.
- Urging jurisdictions to develop and implement meaningful graduated sanctions for violations of probation or parole.
- Urging governments to support professional associations and organizations to develop programs to train criminal justice professionals in understanding, adopting and utilizing factors that promote the sound exercise of their discretion.
- Urging state agencies and licensing boards to develop and enforce policy on the employment of people with convictions, including contractors and vendors who do business with the state.
- Urging jurisdictions to afford prisoners meaningful access to the courts and ensure that they are subject to procedures applicable to the general public when bringing lawsuits.
- Supporting the traditional right of private employers and property owners to exclude from the workplace and their property persons who are carrying firearms or other weapons.
The ABA House of Delegates is the association’s policy-making body. The 546 delegates represent states and territories, ABA entities, state and local bar associations, affiliated organizations and other constituencies.
With more than 413,000 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 in a democratic society.