Next Week's Equal Justice Conference: To Be or Not To Be?

Today, the New York Law Journal is reporting about the uncertain status of the Equal Justice Conference, a national gathering of legal services and pro bono advocates that is (still, at the moment) scheduled to meet next week in Phoenix.  The EJC is co-sponsored by the ABA and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.  According to the NYLJ article, though, the NLADA has backed out of its sponsorship role in protest of the controversial immigration law that was recently passed in Arizona.

The American Bar Association is facing mounting pressure to move a conference in Phoenix scheduled for next week after its co-sponsor backed out and two New York public interest law groups called for a boycott to protest Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.

One quibble with the NYLJ article: in its headline it refers to the EJC as being an “immigration” conference.  It’s not.  While immigration advocacy is certainly a topic covered at the EJC, the conference focuses more broadly on civil legal services, pro bono, and access-to-justice issues.

UPDATE – 5.5.10 – last night the ABA circulated a statement indicating that it would go forward with the Equal Justice Conference in Phoenix.  The statement took pains, though, to recognize the difficult choice that NLADA and potential conference attendees have been facing.  Here’s a portion of the statement:

Ultimately, we have decided to proceed with the conference.  We believe that the event will strongly affirm the crucial work our participants do and serve as a clarion call that there is still much that needs to be done.  Had circumstances been different, we may well have chosen to relocate this event.  But at this time, there are simply no viable options to reschedule a conference of this magnitude .  We do not want to cancel the conference altogether; that would deny programming of critical importance to the justice community and the people they serve, and would be a disservice to the numerous registrants who are relying upon our presentation of this event.  As important, many of our colleagues in Arizona have urged us to proceed with the Conference.

The statement had this to say about NLADA’s choice not to co-sponsor the conference:

The ABA understands and respects the position taken yesterday by NLADA to withdraw its co-sponsorship of this event in protest of the very controversial Arizona law and is grateful for their support of our going forward.

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