Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Conference of Delegates Urges Congress to Be Careful About Abridging Rights
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Conference of Delegates on Sunday called on California’s representatives in Congress to protect constitutional rights that many delegates said were compromised by the USA Patriot Act and other government measures taken in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
After an extended debate and carefully crafted amendments that underscored the political sensitivity of balancing security and individual rights, the conference adopted a statement that sticks closely to resolutions adopted by the American Bar Association at its August meeting.
“California lawyers have a major role in upholding constitutional and human rights, at all times, including those times when those rights appear to be in conflict with efforts made in the pursuit of national defense,” the compromise resolution read.
It urged “protection of the statutory and constitutional rights of immigration detainees” by disclosing their names, where they are held and the charges against them, charging them promptly, providing prompt custody hearings and public removal hearings, and promulgating Immigration and Nationalization Service regulations on access to counsel and legal information, and permitting independent organizations to visit detainees in detention facilities.
The resolution also called on President Bush and Congress to assure that a Nov. 13, 2001 military order on detention of non-citizens not apply to U.S. citizens and others lawfully present in the U.S.
The debate and vote on a matter than in its original form criticized the Patriot Act was perhaps the most controversial taken up by the conference, meeting Friday through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Monterey.
But the resolution, which directly addressed the administration of law and justice, was deemed sufficiently within the conference’s purview to come to the floor.
The session was the 68-year-old conference’s last under the umbrella of the State Bar of California.
Conference Chair Stephen Marsh, an attorney with the San Diego law firm of Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, reported Saturday what virtually everyone present already knew—that the conference’s Executive Committee and the State Bar Board of Governors reached agreement earlier this year on a plan to formally separate.
“This will be the final meeting of the conference under the State Bar of California,” Marsh told the house as the session opened Friday.
“This is not a divorce,” Marsh said. “It is a liberation.”
Conference members gave a standing ovation to outgoing State Bar President Karen Nobumoto, who made it a top priority of her presidential year to resolve the tension between the two organizations.
The formal split was meant to unburden the State Bar from criticism that the conference is too political for California attorneys who must pay dues to the State Bar as a licensing organization. It also allows the conference to debate a wider array of topics, although it retains its own purview rules.
A more formal report from Marsh on Saturday was marked by the distribution of white painters’ caps bearing in blue the letters “CDCBA,” for Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations—the new corporation under which the conference operates.
Under a five-year contract with the State Bar, the CDCBA will continue to coordinate annual meetings with the State Bar and will have a voluntary check-off for contributions on the State Bar’s annual dues statement.
The quiet distribution of hats took the place of opening processions and other traditional ceremonial events that have come to mark the annual conference, at which lawyers from local bar associations around the state come to propose, debate and vote on recommendations for new laws to improve the administration of justice.
Most of the resolutions brought to the floor dealt the nuts and bolts of law practice. Delegates rejected as out of purview consideration of a proposal to weigh in on hours that the polls are open in California.
Also rejected was a proposal to return the required number of MCLE hours to 36 in a three-year period from the current 25. The continuing legal education mandate was lowered several years ago as part of more sweeping State Bar reforms.
Members considered, but ultimately rejected, a resolution to offer MCLE hours for pro bono work.
Ten delegates teamed to bring to the floor a proposal by Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation member Paul Wyler to compel the conference to lobby each of the dozens of resolutions that pass each year.
Conference leaders each year review the resolutions that passed and select which ones to lobby.
Among those joining Wyler were former conference chair and current Executive Director Laura Goldin of San Francisco and former conference Chair Matthew St. George of Los Angeles.
Both said they wanted to spur discussion, so delegates could understand how lobbying works and why each resolution could not be taken to the Legislature.
“The Executive Committee must look at where we can have an impact on the law, and where we can have credibility with the Legislature,” Goldin said.
Delegates rejected the resolution.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company