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Threats to attorney-client privilege, federal habeas corpus rights and the need to improve procedures for hearing post-conviction claims of innocence were some of the topics that top state high court judges and top court administrators addressed at their recent annual meeting. Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, the outgoing president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ)-one of the two organizations that gathered-said that many of their joint resolutions were of critical importance to the courts and the public. “We dealt with issues at the heart of our justice system,” she said, describing the July 30-Aug. 3 joint meeting of the CCJ and the Conference of State Court Administrators. Noting that “some law enforcement and regulatory authorities” had adopted policies that could erode the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine, a resolution said that the concern for corporate integrity does not override the “confidential relationship between attorney and client.” The newly installed CCJ president, Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, observed that because pressure to waive the privilege occurred outside the court’s presence, many judges were unaware that a defendant was subjected to it. “Being able to talk candidly to your lawyer is a good thing,” Shepard said. “It’s not only good for the legal interest of the client, but it also benefits third parties by preventing violations from ever happening.” Regarding habeas procedures, the resolution notes that legislation pending in both houses of Congress could severely curtail federal habeas review of state convictions [NLJ, July 25]. The resolution, among other things, urges Congress to consider other “targeted methods [to] ameliorate . . . documented problems” rather than deprive the “federal courts of their traditional jurisdiction without more supporting evidence.” Noting that litigation engendered by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was just now subsiding, Shepard urged Congress to be cautious. “The extent of public examination of these new provisions has been far too brief,” he said. Recognizing that “innocence projects and commissions [had identified] and demonstrate[d] methods of improving reliability” of convictions, the conferences resolved to improve “appropriate procedures for hearing and considering post- conviction claims of innocence,” and to support public officials’ efforts to prevent wrongful convictions. Louisiana Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero Jr. said the point of the innocence projects resolution was “to increase reliability and accountability, and thereby public confidence in the criminal justice system.” Other joint resolutions that came out of the conference: Urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and to make it stronger. Asking Congress for funding for court security. Encouraging each of its members to provide leadership in eliminating racial and ethnic bias in its courts. Resolving to develop court-performance measures to promote “prompt and efficient case administration, public access and service, equity and fairness.”

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