Thorny issues await lawyers at convention

Ten thousand American Bar Association lawyers and judges will begin to gather in the ``City by the Bay'' Thursday, programmed to discuss issues ranging from the rights of AIDS victims to capital punishment. Some association members predict, however, that informal conversations about Judge Robert H. Bork's nomination to the United States Supreme Court and legal issues emerging from the Iran-contra hearings may upstage the scheduled agenda at this annual lawyers' confab.

The controversial Bork nomination received a boost earlier this week with a report that Associate Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court had praised Judge Bork in a little-publicized speech in Colorado. Justice Stevens, who is considered a moderate and often votes with the liberals on the court, rejected the criticism of many liberals who portray the nominee as a rigid, right-wing idealogue.

Meanwhile, a newly released National Law Journal poll indicates that nearly half of the nation's judges support Senate confirmation of Bork.

Twenty-four percent oppose President Reagan's nominee; 26 percent are uncertain, reports the Law Journal.

The Iran-Contra affair has prompted the bar association's section on criminal justice to recommend permanent reauthorization of the independent counsel provision of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

Included in this recommendation are amendments to provide limited judicial review when a US attorney general decides not to appoint an independent counsel and to give the reviewing court the power to expand the scope of the independent counsel's jurisdiction.

Other resolutions to be addressed by the ABA's 447 member House of Delegates, the association's policymaking body, include a measure urging the Reagan administration to revise its interpretation of a section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 so that concern about AIDS contagion does not cause individuals who might be victims of AIDS-related discrimination to be removed from protection under the law.

Additional resolutions would:

1.Sponsor federal legislation to remedy possible race discrimination in death-penalty sentences.

Last term the US Supreme Court refused to outlaw capital punishment even if there were evidence that it was administered in a racially biased manner.

The justices left open, however, a possibility for Congress or individual states to enact laws to prevent such discrimination.

2.Extend the right of employees to reasonable, unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave. This would bolster the rights of women in the workplace.

3.Urge the government of the Soviet Union to improve human rights in its criminal justice system.

ABA resolutions serve as guides for the conduct of the nation's lawyers and judges, and they often lead to federal or state legislation.

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