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American Bar Association Weighs in on Access to Courts for Military Personnel,
Federal Judicial Nomination Process and International Criminal Court

NEW YORK, Aug. 12, 2008 –The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved recommendations relating to expanding military members’ access to the courts, encouraging bipartisan commissions to evaluate prospective judicial candidates and urging the U.S. government to expand its interaction with the International Criminal Court.  The House, the ABA’s policy-making body, met during the final two days of the Association’s Annual Meeting in New York City.

Also during the House session, Judge Patricia Wald received the ABA Medal for 2008, the association’s highest honor.  Wald represented the United States on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and was the first woman judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  The ABA Award is presented only in years in which a single individual has rendered exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American jurisprudence.  

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, an ex officio member of the ABA, addressed the policy-making body today.  In his remarks, he talked about professionalism in the Justice Department in light of the recent inspector general’s report on hiring practices of the department. Mukasey stated, “The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution enacted under it.  That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our department.”

The 555-member House considered some four dozen recommendations. During its debate, the House approved a recommendation urging Congress to overrule the Feres Doctrine, which denies military members access to the courts when they are victims of wrongful government conduct. The recommendation called for the exception that limits access to courts to apply to conduct that occurs only during combatant activities rather than “during time of war.” 

To counter what incoming ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. says is a confirmation process for federal judges that “too often involves lengthy, partisan conflict and delay,” the House adopted a recommendation (118) to encourage senators and delegates in each state to establish bipartisan commissions to evaluate the qualifications of prospective candidates for nomination to U.S. district and courts of appeals, and to recommend possible nominees.

Additionally, the House of Delegates adopted proposals to:
 

  • Urge the U.S. government to expand and broaden its involvement with the International Criminal Court to enhance the international rule of law. (Recommendation 108A)
  • Advance efforts to ban law enforcement’s use of racial and ethnic profiling. (Recommendation 104C)
  • Advocate that trial judges sensitize jurors to the possibility of error when defendants are identified by eyewitnesses of a different race. (Recommendation 104D)
  • Encourage medical personnel to report non-injury hospital events to evaluate whether hospital procedures should be modified to improve patient safety. (Recommendation 115)
  • Press the U.S. government to allow clinicians to provide medications to the partners of patients whom they are treating for sexually transmitted diseases without prior examination of the partners. (Recommendation 116A)

A full listing of the recommendations with action can be accessed here.

The House of Delegates includes members from state and local bar associations around the country, ABA affiliates and ABA entities. 

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.

 


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