Policy Adopted at ABA Meeting Urges Congress to Override Executive Order on Interrogation, Addresses Government State Secrets Claims, Weighs in on Ledbetter Pay Discrimination Case
CHICAGO, Aug. 14, 2007 – The American Bar Association, meeting in San Francisco, has spoken to critical legal issues currently in public discourse and before Congress. The ABA’s policy-making body, the House of Delegates, debated and adopted association policy on torture and detainees, the way courts deal with government assertions of the state secrets doctrine and a recent Supreme Court ruling in a pay discrimination case, among others.
The House adopted a recommendation that urges Congress to override the president’s executive order of July 20 that alters the U.S. government’s international obligations under the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment and interrogation of detainees. The policy calls for detainees to be treated with the minimum protections set out in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation of September 2006.
Also adopted by the ABA House of Delegates was a recommendation that “supports procedures and standards designed to ensure that, whenever possible, federal civil cases are not dismissed based solely on the state secrets privilege.” If a plaintiff can prove a case with non-privileged evidence, the court should only dismiss the case if the court also finds in a confidential review that the defense would be substantially impaired by the inability to use privileged evidenced in its case, according to the proposal. The state secrets doctrine is at issue in litigation across the nation, and has been used extensively since Sept. 11, 2001.
In addition, the ABA approved a report that Congress should act in response to a recent court ruling on pay discrimination. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., that Lilly M. Ledbetter – a female employee of Goodyear – could not sue for equal wages because she did not file her complaint within the 180-day time limit specified in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The new policy states that the ABA urges Congress to “ensure that in claims involving discrimination in compensation, the statute of limitations runs from each payment reflecting the claimed unlawful disparity.” If adopted by Congress, such a policy would effectively allow employees to sue for pay discrimination at any time it is discovered.
These were among several policies that were adopted during deliberations of the ABA’s House of Delegates when it met in the Moscone Convention Center West. The actions by some 550 members from state and local bar associations around the country, ABA affiliates and internal units of the ABA marked the culmination of the 2007 Annual Meeting.
Among other recommendations that became policy of the association are ones that:
- Address the appointment, retention and replacement of United States Attorneys and stating that their “professional judgment and discretion should be insulated from improper partisan political considerations.“
- Encourage governments to facilitate voting by all individuals with disabilities, including those with cognitive impairments that increase in frequency with age.
- Call on law firms to discontinue mandatory age-based retirement policies and replace them with individual evaluations of senior partners.
- Urge support and services until at least age 21 for youth aging-out of the foster care system and transitioning to self-sufficiency, and placement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in homes that protect them from discrimination and violence.
- Affirm that dependence on alcohol or other drugs is a disease that should receive equivalent coverage under insurance as other diseases.
- Encourage governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and others to integrate rule-of-law initiatives with global environmental issues.
- Urge Congress to pass legislation strengthening protections for victims of human trafficking.
- Support international standards on judicial independence.
- Adopt principles to govern criminal legal system responses to major disasters that maintain fidelity to the rule of law.
The recommendations, as acted upon, will be available online, beginning Aug. 15. In the meantime, and if you’d like additional information, please contact Stephanie Ortbals-Tibbs at 202-662-1091, or Dave Jaffe at 312-988-6139.
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.