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Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night press conference that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. His statement was the first official reaction since the court on Thursday agreed to proceed with the case.

Myanmar has been accused of carrying out human rights abuses on a massive scale in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 during what it described as a counterinsurgency campaign.

Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.

“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he told reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.

The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.

Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”

The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”

However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.

The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

The report by BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, says that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor says reading helped her reach the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor on Sunday celebrated the release of her two children's books by speaking to parents and children at the Newark Public Library in New Jersey.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reports she said she never dreamed she would become a Supreme Court justice because she didn't know what one was when she was a child. She says her mother made sure books were part of her upbringing.

Sotomayor's books, "Turning Pages: My Life Story" and "The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor!" examine how her family and her determination moved her through life.

Federal judges in New Jersey have struggled with a workload approaching 700 cases each, nearly double what's manageable, because of judicial vacancies. In Texas, close to a dozen district judgeships remain open, more than in any other state.

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees slowed to a halt this election year, a common political occurrence for the final months of divided government with a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate. The vacancy on the Supreme Court attracted the most attention as Republicans refused to even hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, insisting that the choice to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February rests with the next president.

But more than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary are taking a toll on judges, the courts and Americans seeking recourse. Obama has nominated replacements for more than half of those spots, including 44 nominees for the district court and seven for the appeals court. Yet the Senate has confirmed only nine district and appeals court judges this year — and only four since Scalia died.

For one week at the end of October, law schools, law firms, bar associations and other legal groups from Seattle to Boston and New York to New Orleans will recognize the work done by lawyers on behalf of the poor and underserved through a national pro bono celebration. 

Pro bono refers to legal work that lawyers do for free for the benefit of their communities.  This work can include representing individuals near the poverty line in civil cases that involve issues such as landlord-tenant disputes, child custody, veterans’ benefits and foreclosure. It can also include legal work on behalf of an organization that serves the poor, such as a homeless shelter.  In some communities, lawyers are deeply involved in the legal tasks of community economic development, providing counsel for start-up microenterprises and non-profit organizations that serve low-income communities.

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service organizes the National Pro Bono Celebration, which is Oct. 24 - 30.  To date, local organizers have planned hundreds of events in nearly every state to highlight the year-round efforts of lawyers who try to meet the ever-growing legal needs of this country's most vulnerable citizens. These efforts are designed to increase pro bono participation and result in greater access to justice for Americans living on the social margins.  

America’s lawyers have a long tradition of providing pro bono service. Although any profession can make free service for the poor a part of its standard practice, it is the legal profession that includes pro bono as a core value.  The ABA has a goal calling for lawyers to spend 50 hours a year providing pro bono service.  We take pride knowing that lawyers are contributing an average of more than 40 hours a year of pro bono service to people of limited means.  

Pro bono work brings hope to the powerless and helps right the wrongs of injustice. While lawyers have contributed much, there is still more to be done. 

As part of the National Pro Bono Celebration, law schools, state and local bar associations, judicial groups and community development organizations have planned hundreds of free legal service events all around the country.  

Orange County lawyers will work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 26 at several legal clinics in Costa Mesa, Irvine, La Habra, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana to help low-income residents with bankruptcy, foreclosure, domestic violence, eviction and immigration issues.  

The Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law will have an immigration symposium and educational event on deportation defense training.

In New Mexico, the 2nd Judicial District Pro Bono Group, JAG and military specialists, Law Access New Mexico, the state bar and the New Mexico School of Law will host a free legal fair focusing on veterans’ issues.  

In New Jersey, the Rutgers School of Law-Camden and the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey is launching a new pro bono project to help federal prisoners re-enter the community.  

Idaho is launching a new statewide Ask-A-Lawyer program that will be staffed 100 percent by government pro bono lawyers.  The organizers of this program plan to staff it every business day of the year.

In New York, the Nassau County Bar Association has organized a mortgage foreclosure free legal consultation clinic with Nassau County Homeownership Center, Nassau/Suffolk Law Committee, Community Development Corporation of Long Island and the New York State Attorney General Office. 

Volunteerism transcends politics. It is a central part of the call for action made by presidents from Kennedy to Reagan to Obama. The legal community asks everyone to join with us in volunteering to help the growing number of our neighbors who have fallen on hard times. The National Bureau of Economic Research recently declared the recession to be over, but recovery will be slow for many.  We all must stand ready to help when we can.  The American Bar Association encourages all lawyers to add some pro bono work to their portfolio.  Volunteer help is a renewable resource, independent of fossil fuels or the stock market, and it becomes stronger and more abundant with use.

If you are a person in need of pro bono assistance please go to:

National security experts say serious threats from cyber and Internet terrorism that crosses geographic boundaries are rendering traditional methods of law enforcement and tracking elusive.

“Instead of a linear threat, we have diversified threats coming from all over,” said David S. Kris, the assistant attorney general for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice.  “Organizations and individuals have become self-radicalized over the Internet, with aspirations to exert force on the United States and our interests outside.”  Kris noted that many are less organized and trained than traditional terrorists; however, they leave fewer footprints online, making it more difficult to decipher where threats are originating and how to effectively deal with them.

Speakers — all from federal agencies charged with national security — were part of the 20th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law held at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 4 and 5.

Robert Liff, general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, noted that the legal framework in the United States is not keeping pace with the threats.  He likens the legal challenge to running as fast as you can to stay in the same place, in part because the delineation of power between intelligence agencies and law enforcement can be ambiguous.  Liff and others on the panel reinforced the necessity of having a dynamic legal framework in order to meet national security needs.

Because state boundaries and specific terrorist organization lines have become clouded, in many instances it is difficult to decide which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction over a given threat. 

”The president needs to decide which tool to use in different circumstances,” said Robert J. Eatinger Jr., acting deputy general counsel for Operations, CIA.  “Our policies need to be broad, permitting flexibility in our response,” he added.  “There is no clear rule book for intelligence,” Eatinger recommends law enforcement agencies work with Congress to engage “smartly and safely to sharpen tools in order to keep up with the changing security threat picture.”

Different agencies need to work together to enhance security and protect the U.S. against cyber threats,” said Joseph Maher, deputy general counsel, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who noted that terrorists go to great lengths to avoid security and tracking measures on the Internet and in cyberspace. They do not employ techniques that any one agency can protect against.  

According to the panel, issues of cyber security and the corresponding evolving threats continue to be a growing problem for the United States. In order to effectively mitigate these threats, more clarity in the law is needed, and guidelines for federal agencies need to be updated so that responsibilities can be better coordinated.  

Speakers were part of the 20th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law on Nov. 4-5 co-sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security, the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University School of Law.

For further information, please contact:

Alexandra Buller
Division for Media Relations and Communication Services
American Bar Association

The American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities will hold the first of four hearings to gauge the intensity of Latino civic participation and evaluate access to justice issues Nov. 12 at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Commissioners from across the country will join commission Chair Cesar L. Alvarez, ABA President Stephen N. Zack and honorary co-chair of the commission, Gov. Bill Richardson, at this first hearing.

Expert witnesses will testify on the state of Latinos in the United States, with a focus on the Midwest as a microcosm of the national Latino experience.  Topics will include the housing crisis and how foreclosures and homelessness are affecting the Latino community, and the level of access for Latinos and Latinas to the U.S. justice system.  Witnesses will also testify on the criminalization of immigrants. Zack and Alvarez will give welcoming remarks; Gov. Richardson will present closing comments.

WHO:              ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities

WHAT:            Hearing on state of Latinos in the United States

Testimony by expert witnesses on various topics and remarks by

·         Gov. Bill Richardson

·         Commission Chair Cesar L. Alvarez

·         Loyola Law School Dean David Yellen and

·         ABA President Stephen N. Zack

WHEN:            Nov. 12

                       9 a.m. — 1:30 p.m.

WHERE:          Loyola University Chicago School of Law

                       Regents Hall, Lewis Tower, 16th Floor

                       111 East Pearson St.


This event is free and open to members of the press.

With nearly 400,000 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.

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