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May 4, 2010 6:27 PM

ABA Feeling Heat Over Not Canceling Upcoming Meeting in Arizona

Posted by D.M. Levine

Update: Late Tuesday afternoon, the ABA announced in a press release posted online that it will proceed with the Equal Justice Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, as planned on May 13.

Call it a case of wrong place, wrong time.

The American Bar Association is facing mounting pressure to pull an upcoming symposium on public interest and pro bono law out of Phoenix as a protest against Arizona's controversial new immigration legislation, according to a Tuesday story in sibling publication the New York Law Journal,

The NYLJ reports that a number of organizations have already announced plans to boycott the ABA's  three-day Equal Justice Conference, which is scheduled to begin on May 13. Among those set to skip the event in protest: The Legal Aid Society, which has announced that its three delegates won't be attending, and the event’s cosponsor, the National Aid & Defender Association. The City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono arm of the New York City Bar, has also withdrawn its delegates.

"While we appreciate that this was fairly short notice, it was really disappointing to us that the ABA and NLADA did not see fit to change the venue to another state," Austin Fragomen, the chairman of the City Bar Fund and head of the 250-lawyer Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, the country's largest corporate immigration law firm told the NYLJ. Fragomen chairs a division of the City Bar that oversees the Justice Center.

Officials at the ABA released a statement last week saying that the group was “considering every alternative and chance to voice our opposition to [Arizona’a new] policy,” the NYLJ reports. The ABA’s statement went on to point out that the conference itself “could be an appropriate platform to make a statement about [the legislation],” according to the NYLJ. The ABA has since removed the statement from its Web site.

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It was the appropriate site when the decision was made & it is even more appropriate to
convene in AZ now. In light of AZ's new law, debate the issues and possibly have a positive impact nationally as well as in AZ. To move would be indefensible rush to judg-
ment. Stay and Debate.

NLADA's decision to withdraw from the conference is misguided on many levels. Why not add a segment to the conference which discusses the new law and how advocates can better advise their clients? Instead, NLADA is depriving advocates of much needed information. Moreover, they are potentially harming immigrants, both documented and otherwise who may work or benefit from the conference.

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