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In his Aug. 14 news conference at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, new ABA President William H. Neukom focused on three resolutions adopted by the ABA House of Delegates that speak to the necessity of preserving the rule of law. One supports “in principle that the appointment, retention and replacement of United States Attorneys and career government attorneys, and the exercise of their professional judgment and discretion, should be insulated from improper partisan political considerations.” Another supports “procedures and standards designed to ensure that whenever possible, federal civil cases are not dismissed based solely on the state secrets privilege.” And a third urges “Congress to override the President’s Executive Order of July 20, 2007, which alters the U.S. government’s international obligations under the Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12, 1949, regarding the treatment and interrogation of detainees under its authority or control, and to reaffirm those obligations.” All three resolutions address acknowledged or alleged Bush administration policies or practices, but the principles they invoke are, or at least should be, bipartisan. For this country to have a fair, impartial and truth-seeking system of justice, prosecutions should not be brought or suspended for the purpose of benefiting one political party; litigants challenging government policies or actions deserve their day in court whenever possible; and torture has no place. The issue is whether these resolutions will have any real impact. With regard to U.S. attorneys, Neukom said he anticipated that the ABA would develop a proposed set of standards and guidelines. The other two resolutions call upon Congress to enact specific legislation. We applaud the ABA for focusing on these vital issues and hope that the resolutions lead to necessary changes.

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