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N.Y., local bar well-represented at ABA’s annual meeting

ABA President Stephen Zack receives the gavel from his predecessor, Immediate Past President Carolyn Lamm, during last week’s ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Used with permission.

The New York State Bar Association sponsored one of the more publicized resolutions to come out of last week’s American Bar Association’s annual meeting in California.

The resolution calls on all states, territorial and tribal governments to eliminate barriers to civil marriage between two people of the same sex.

NYSBA President Stephen P. Younger, of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, said the measure passed by an overwhelming margin with only one person speaking against it.

“The historic action … represents another promising step on the path toward equal rights for same-sex couples,” Younger stated in a press release. “NYSBA has been a leader in advocating that same-sex couples be allowed to marry, and it will continue the fight until this goal is achieved both in New York and across the country.”

Younger and a number of Rochester attorneys attended the ABA’s 2010 annual meeting in San Francisco, where only days before, a federal judge had struck down California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

A. Vincent Buzard of Harris Beach PLLC said the same-sex marriage resolution was important.

He led a panel discussion on “The Attorney Client Privilege and Interlocutory Appeals after the Supreme Court Decision in Mohawk Industries Inc. v. Carpenter.”

“I got the people who argued the case on the Supreme Court and asked them a bunch of questions,” Buzard said, noting he also had an excellent follow-up presentation with ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm of Washington, D.C.

The program focused on the decision’s impact on the attorney-client privilege and the disclosure of other privileged or confidential information along with appellate strategy issues.

Panelists included Paul D. Clement, former U.S. solicitor general, and Edwin S. Kneedler, deputy solicitor general.
Buzard said another of the week’s highlights was the presentation of the ABA Medal, the ABA’s highest honor, to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during a meeting of the House of Delegates, of which Buzard is a member.

Justice Ginsburg, who has been a member of the bar for more than 50 years, shared with those present her feelings on her own, non-controversial confirmation hearings. She said she hopes the Senate’s judicial confirmation hearings will become more collegial once again.

National Conference of Bar Presidents

MCBA President Susan Schultz Laluk of Hiscock & Barclay LLP attended the National Conference of Bar Presidents, held in conjunction with the ABA’s national meeting. ABA President-elect Stephen N. Zack conducted an hour-long program on civics education in schools, an initiative championed by retired Supreme Court Justices David H. Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor.

Laluk said the program is designed to give children a better understanding of the functions of government.

“If kids aren’t educated properly, they can’t be active participants in the government and that’s bad for all of us,” she said. “They’ll be better citizens if they participate.”

Laluk, who became president of the local bar July 1, said her conference consisted of several educational programs and training, and both offered ample opportunities for networking.

She said attendees discussed  the economy’s impact on the profession, improving continuing legal education courses, serving and retaining members, and promoting diversity, among other topics.

“We just exchanged ideas,” Laluk said. “They’re dealing with a lot of the same issues.”

One of the sessions she said she found particularly interesting concerned the ways in which law practices are changing and how law will be practiced in the future — everything from e-lawyering to virtual law firms was discussed. Several attorneys from Australia discussed the ins and outs of publicly traded law firms there.

“It was very invigorating to be able to interact with all these other bar associations,” Laluk said.

Other local attendees included Anthony R. Palermo of Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP; Thomas G. Smith of Harter Secrest & Emery LLP; and Mary Corbitt, executive director, Monroe County Bar Association & Foundation of the Monroe County Bar.

House of Delegates activity

Over two days of debate, the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted a broad range of policies relating to federal preemption, the criminal justice system, principles relating to right to counsel and training of judges, and more. Resolution 117 — designed to bring more clarity to the contentious issue of federal preemption — was one of several measures that was adopted. When Congress passes legislation, or a federal agency issues a rule, questions concerning whether the federal rule “preempts,” or overrides, state tort law may arise. The resolution calls on Congress and federal agencies to follow certain procedures when determining whether a federal rule “preempts” state law.

A full list of new policies and resolutions adopted at the convention can be viewed online at