A proposal to seat the U.S. Virgin Islands in the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates this year failed on Monday, but a lengthy and vigorous debate over it was unexpected.
The delegates tied at 223 in a dramatic vote at their meeting in San Francisco, sending the measure to defeat with a two-thirds margin needed for passage.
Past ABA presidents and others gave passionate speeches before the vote. A show of hands was inconclusive before a count was ordered.
“We’re asking for equality,” said Anthony M. Ciolli, the resolution’s primary sponsor.
“The time is now” to give the Virgin Islands a seat, said former ABA President Paulette Brown.
Attorneys from the U.S. territory have contributed to the ABA “year after year” and they’re entitled to it, Brown said.
Richard Lipton, an Illinois attorney and a member of the ABA’s tax section, said the issue was a governance matter that should be subject to the decennial review process.
The delegates did pass Resolution 10A, which encourages online providers of legal documents to adopt ABA best practice guidelines.
The delegates had considered the issue twice before, said Henry M. Greenberg, a New York delegate who presented the resolution.
But it’s been refined and retooled, he said of the measure with sponsors that included the N.Y. State Bar Association.
The resolution, which passed on a voice vote with little opposition, is about access to justice, Greenberg said.
Millions of consumers use online legal document providers because they can’t afford attorneys so it’s vital to protect them and make sure they understand what they’re getting, Greenberg said.
The delegate meeting concludes Tuesday.