St. Thomas attorney, Tom Bolt, Managing Attorney of Tom Bolt & Associates, PC and a Delegate at Large to the American Bar Association House of Delegates, addressed the House at its Midyear Meeting on February 11th in Los Angeles, California on "issues of concern to America’s territories."
In the midst of pitched primary battles and the looming 2008 election, the American Bar Association House of Delegates challenged the traditional way states and territories handle congressional and legislative redistricting, calling for a new process further removed from the politically charged atmosphere of local legislatures. In a vote by its policy-making body, the ABA urged each state and territory to assign the process to an independent commission, leaving it to each jurisdiction to configure the commissions and set suitable redistricting criteria.
"The Virgin Islands is currently debating the issue of single member districting of our territorial legislature, both in public debate and that of our newly elected Constitutional Convention," Bolt said. "We should not leave it to a political body such our local Legislature to determine by gerrymandering those single member districts."
“The ABA is continually identifying areas where current legal systems are not working, and suggesting sensible approaches for fixing them,” said ABA President William H. Neukom. “The new policy on redistricting reform is an example of the association’s dedication to the rule of law and its efforts to serve the American public.”
The resolution was one of nearly 30 new policy measures passed by the ABA House of Delegates, including two high-profile proposals relating to global warming and immigration reform, both of which Bolt addressed. "These are two key issues of concern to citizens of America’s territories."
With regard to the ABA new policy outlining legal approaches to the problem of climate change and environmental threats, the House of Delegates urged the U.S. government to take a leadership role in addressing climate change, and press federal, state, territorial and local governments to better protect and enhance ecosystems when approving new laws, regulations and policies.
The ABA also spoke out forcefully on the continuing unrest in Pakistan, where many lawyers and judges remain under house arrest. A House resolution expressed solidarity with the Pakistani bar and bench, calling on the president of Pakistan to restore the country’s constitution, reinstate fired judges and justices, and release those wrongly arrested during the state of emergency.
“The constitution which Pervez Musharraf propped up in late December has been stripped of essential provisions, many judges remain under house arrest and protesters remain in jail,” said Neukom. “Without the rule of law, Pakistan is destabilized, more vulnerable to terrorism, and its economy is suffering. Under these conditions, we are concerned about whether free and fair elections are possible.”
Other proposals passed by the House call for strengthened legal representation on behalf of veterans of the U.S. military, special prosecution units to pursue crimes of elder abuse and new efforts by bar associations to assist identity theft victims.
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.