Lawyerfest in San Francisco
About 9000 lawyers expected to attend
American Bar Association meeting
By Julia Cheever
August 4, 2007
As many as 9,000 lawyers are expected to descend on San Francisco
this coming week for the annual meeting of the American Bar Association.
Topics at the Aug. 9-14 meeting range from how courts should
deal with government claims of state secrets to the impact of
Internet innovations such as YouTube and MySpace on privacy, copyright
and parental control concerns.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who grew up in San
Francisco, will speak at the group's opening assembly at Davies
Symphony Hall on Aug. 11.
Other speakers include Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy,
author Michael Crichton, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton
and former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr.
The headquarters for the meeting is Moscone Center West. The
1,600 sessions and events will take place at local hotels and
Laurel Bellows, a Chicago lawyer who chairs the ABA's House of
Delegates, said, "The meeting is a coming together of lawyers
from all over the country, in every area of practice."
The purpose is "to share common concerns, address issues
of importance to the public, network with each other and to learn,"
Bellows said in an interview on Friday.
Part of the meeting is a program of 200 sessions of continuing
legal education for lawyers from Aug. 9 to 13.
The YouTube and MySpace discussion will take place in an Aug.
9 session titled "The Whole World is Watching! -- Privacy,
Copyright and Parental Control in the Age of YouTube, MySpace
and Beyond." Panelists will include Google/YouTube General
Counsel Zahavah Levine.
Other panelists including San Francisco attorney James Brosnahan
will discuss the practices of pretexting and posting phony caller
IDs at an Aug. 10 session on "Invasion of the Personal Information
A second segment of the convention is the meeting of the ABA's
House of Delegates on Aug. 13 and 14 to consider policy resolutions.
The delegates are about 550 attorneys from state and local bar
associations around the country.
Some resolutions are policy statements and others are proposals
for legislation. If the delegates approve a legislative proposal,
ABA lobbyists then take it to Congress and try to work with legislators
to get it passed, Bellows said.
"We would like to think the legislators listen to us,"
"The ABA's input is significant and credible."
One proposal before the delegates is a set of recommendations
on how courts should handle government requests for dismissal
of lawsuits that allegedly would jeopardize state secrets if allowed
The recommendations urge courts to "make every effort"
to avoid dismissing such lawsuits and to review evidence from
all parties before making a decision on dismissal.
The state secrets argument is currently at issue in more than
three dozen domestic surveillance lawsuits consolidated before
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco.
Government lawyers contend the lawsuits against telecommunications
companies should be dismissed because national security secrets
could be revealed. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will
hear arguments in San Francisco on Aug. 15 on the government's
appeal of Walker's refusal to dismiss the lead case in the group.
Another proposal before the delegates would call for federal,
state and local government limits on public access to information
about closed criminal cases or cases in which a convicted person
has completed his sentence.
Supporters of the proposal say it would help people who have
served their sentences and who are not dangerous to overcome discrimination
and obtain jobs, while some media organizations have expressed
concerns about the sealing of public information.
The Chicago-based ABA is a voluntary professional organization
with about 413,000 lawyers nationwide as members.
It holds its annual meeting in San Francisco approximately every
five years. Bellows said San Francisco is ABA members' favorite
location and is conducive to the meeting's purposes as well.
"The openness and objectivity and great diversity of people
are a good setting for the work we're about to do," Bellows
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