The ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities was created by ABA President Stephen Zack as one of his four presidential initiatives. Commission members include honorary co-chairs Emilio Estefan, Hon. Mel Martinez, and Hon. Bill Richardson, former Governor for the State of New Mexico.
The Commission will hold public hearings throughout the year in order to generate testimony from a broad coalition of lawyers, judges, legal and social science scholars, and elected officials in the Latino community. The testimony will focus on the most pressing legal issues facing the Latino community and how these issues can be addressed. Issues will include, but are not be limited to, voting rights, immigration, civil rights, and access to the courts. The hearings will not only inform the Commission but also engage the broader community. These regional hearings will also serve to inform the development of ABA policy resolutions as well as the creation of a comprehensive report, which will provide recommendations for Congressional and Administration policy makers. As part of its works the Commission will also publish a comprehensive report of its finding, which will recommend solutions to address these key issues – serving as an important guide to state and federal policy makers, government agencies, and organizations throughout the United States.
On Friday, March 11, NLLSA’s Chair, Barbara Barreno, will testify before the Commission during a special hearing in New Orleans focusing on law students. She will speak about NLLSA’s mission and activities and the interaction between Latino law student organizations and their law school administrations. Law students are welcome to attend this hearing and submit comments to the Commission for its report. To learn more about the hearing, please click here.
This Commission comes at a surprise; an invitation for a dialogue on issues facing the Latino community does not occur often. My next question is: what impact will this have on our community? For instance, take the issue of Latinos having limited access to courts. What type of recommendations will the Commission’s report suggest? Will it be our responsibility as judges, attorneys, and law students to informally educate our communities about the process of securing one’s day in court? Regardless of the outcome of the ABA’s initiative, this first step is commendable.
Jasmine Hernandez is a second-year student at UCLA School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Vice Chair.