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ABA Midyear Meeting Tackles Test Taking, Ethics, Hot-button Topics  

Representatives from the bar threw their support behind a new code of ethics for U.S. Supreme Court judges while at the same time kicked to the curb a proposal to make law school admissions exams optional. These hot-button topics, along with a slew of other considerations, were addressed at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2023 Midyear Meeting held from Wednesday, Feb. 1, to Monday, Feb. 6, in New Orleans.

supreme court 544218 640smallAs such, for the first time ever, the House of Delegates voted to endorse a “binding” judicial ethics code of conduct. The 591-member body also rejected a plan put forth by the bar’s independent accreditation arm to cut the requirement for incoming law students to take a “reliable and valid” admissions exam.

“It’s high time to set [a code of conduct],” said Stephen Saltzburg, a former official at the U.S. Justice Department and law professor. “The Supreme Court should have a code of ethics. Exclamation point. The end.”

Saltzburg, who has been with the George Washington University Law School since 1990, has served on the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, according to the law school. Resolution 400 would specifically adopt a code “comparable” to the one used with respect to other judges in the U.S., according to the ABA. “Advocates of the change say the absence of a clearly articulated, binding code of ethics for members of the highest court in the country imperils the legitimacy of the court as well as the judicial system,” according to the trade group.

From Twitter

John E. Scanlon AO @JohnEScanlon

"The American Bar Association has adopted a Resolution urging all Parties to the @UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to adopt a protocol to prevent and combat wildlife trafficking. See article & Resolution #endwildlifecrime @ADMCapFound"

As for the proposal to scrap law school admissions exams, it is still uncertain what course of action the ABA will ultimately take. Despite the House of Delegates vote, the final decision still rests with the Council of ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which has the last word on accreditation standards changes.

Additionally, the week-long event also included a celebration of legal professionals who have exemplified the bar’s commitment to ethical and racial diversity. To that end, four individuals were presented with the Spirit of Excellence Award at a Saturday, Feb. 4 luncheon.

This year’s honorees, per the ABA, are:

  • Diandra Benally: A former attorney for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and the first woman to serve as general counsel for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
  • Roger Gregory: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals chief judge who was the first African American to serve in the role.
  • Goodwin H. Liu: California Supreme Court associate justice and constitutional law professor from Harvard Law School. Liu also helped to launch the AmeriCorps national service program.
  • Reginald M. Turner: Immediate ABA past president and former president of the State Bar of Michigan. Turner also chaired the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross quipped the midyear meeting was highly productive considering it took place in the high-energy city of New Orleans. She also highlighted the work the group has done with respect to its broader goals in her remarks. “If you’ve seen the ABA’s recent Impact Report that catalogs our multitude of public service programs, you know that our impact is stronger than ever,” she said, adding. “We must elevate the essentials of our profession—civics, civility and collaboration, the 3 C’s—for all to see and hear.”

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