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San Francisco-In a flurry of voting at the end of its annual meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) recommended allowing in-house lawyers to report fraud up the chain of command at their companies. Delegates also urged that civilian lawyers be allowed to defend vigorously prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and opposed laws, like one on the California ballot, that would forbid the government from collecting racial data. The vote on in-house lawyers came one day after the ABA narrowly approved changes to its model professional conduct rules allowing lawyers to breach the attorney-client privilege if their advice has been used to commit crime. The rules were drawn up after Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals shook financial markets. “We’re talking about employees who lost their jobs and in some cases their pensions,” ABA President-elect Dennis Archer said. “This is in the best interests of our profession. It is in the best interests of the country.” This rule change passed by a 17-vote margin, 218-201. The vote to allow in-house lawyers to report crime up the corporate ladder was also close, but the other resolutions passed with ease The resolution to oppose any law that prohibits the collection of racially identifiable information was proposed by the Bar Association of San Francisco. It was prompted by Proposition 54, dubbed by supporters as the Racial Privacy Initiative, which will be on the state’s Oct. 7 ballot. “It is something that sets the civil rights movement back 50 years,” said Mark Schickman, a partner in the San Francisco office of Seattle-based Perkins Coie who presented the proposal to the ABA’s House of Delegates. Schickman said Proposition 54 would have disastrous consequences on civil rights and employment litigation, frustrate efforts to combat racial profiling by law enforcement and hamper medical research. If passed, he warned, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing “will be out of business in 10 years.” Also under consideration were two resolutions dealing with military justice. The resolution urging changes in the Bush administration’s military tribunal rules for prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay passed easily. It asks the administration not to monitor privileged conversations between accused terrorists and their civilian lawyers and to allow lawyers to be present during all phases of the proceedings. A resolution opposing war crimes charges being brought against soldiers in foreign courts under the concept of “universal jurisdiction” did not fare as well. With about half the delegates having already left the meeting, a motion to postpone the resolution indefinitely passed, 114-105.

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