March 2010

Committee Reports



Women in the Courts Task Force Seeks New Members

The Women in the Courts Task Force consists of members from various sectors, including public interest, academia, and private practice. The Task Force in recent years has worked to address issues impacting women as litigants, and in the past year the Task Force has been focused on language access/court interpreting and elder law issues. This year the Task Force plans to continue its involvement with language access issues in the courts, sponsor a panel on these issues, and continue to work with Justice Speaks to monitor progress on the OCA's 2006 action plan, as well as broaden its agenda to include other issues impacting women in the courts.

To apply please contact the Chair, Reema Abdelhamid, at 212-336-4198 or



Alternative Dispute Resolution
Letter urging the ABA House of Delegates to support the enactment of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA).  Collaborative Law has become a well-established method of dispute resolution, saving judicial resources for the cases that truly require litigation.  Enacting the UCLA would promote uniformity among the existing laws concerning Collaborative Law.

Civil Rights
Amicus Brief: Amnesty International v. John McConnell, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.  The brief argues that the FISA Amendments Act undermines the Sixth Amendment right to counsel because of its impact on
the day-to-day activities of lawyers who, because of fears of surveillance under the Act, are chilled from providing their clients the effective assistance of counsel or are forced to incur great economic expense in traveling to meet with clients and witnesses in hard to reach parts of the world to avoid violating client confidences.

Cooperative and Condominium Law
Updated Model Alteration Agreement for Cooperative Apartments along with supporting commentary.  The new Model Form sets forth a model agreement for lawyers to utilize in addressing issues relating to the cooperative corporation, the shareholder undertaking the alteration and his/her neighbors.

Drugs and the Law
Report supporting A.8147/S.5191 which would prevent prosecutors from using evidence related to the possession of a controlled substance obtained during the course of seeking medical attention for an overdose.  The enactment of this bill would encourage persons suffering from an overdose of a controlled substance, or persons witnessing, or with knowledge of another individual suffering from an overdose of a controlled substance, to obtain medical care without fear that their coming forward would result in prosecution for possession of a controlled substance.

Health Law
Report expressing support for the establishment of mandatory HIV testing in New York and offering an approach that would include: sufficient pre-test counseling to provide the patient with knowledge and understanding that HIV testing is planned; the patient must be offered testing on an opt-out basis; the patient’s desire to opt-out or not should be noted on written consent form or, when no form is used, in the patient’s chart; counseling and referral must be provided upon a positive test result; information about HIV transmission and risks must be provided in all cases, even in the case of a negative result; and information should be collected to assess the outcome and effects the new legislation has.

Judicial Administration, Council on
Report Recommending a New York State Court Rule Requiring that Sensitive Personal Information be Omitted or Redacted from Documents Filed with Civil Court.  With court filings increasingly available on the internet or otherwise distributed in electronic from sensitive personal information (such social security numbers) found in such filings need to be protected from unnecessary disclosure and identity theft. The report recommends the adoption of a State-wide rule which along with other requirements would provide that the following nine categories of information not be included in court filings, even in redacted form: social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, bank and other financial account numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, government issued identification numbers, other numbers uniquely identifying an individual, names of minor children, and dates of birth.  

Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals
Report supporting A.5985-A/S.3070-A which would amend Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 7-8.1 to eliminate the 21 year limit for the duration of pet trusts.   Eliminating the 21 year duration would 1) allow a pet owner to provide in his or her will for a pet that lives longer than 21 years; and 2) cover any pets acquired both before and during  the duration of an inter vivos trust which may outlive the owner.  

Pro Bono and Legal Services
Letter to IOLA expressing support for the proposed amendment to Section 7000.9(b)(1) of Title 21, NYCRR which would permit institutions to offer interest on IOLA accounts that is the greater of 60% of the Federal Funds Target rate or 1% paid on an interest bearing checking account.  This additional option would provide institutions with a simpler administrative mechanism for setting interest rates on IOLA accounts and would provide a floor for the interest rate an institution would pay using the Section (b)(1) option and in some cases would lead to higher rates paid on those accounts.

Professional and Judicial Ethics
Formal Opinion 2010-01 considers whether a lawyer and client at the outset of a representation can agree to the disposition of the client’s files upon conclusion of the engagement.  The opinion concludes that an attorney may include a provision in retainer agreements and engagement letters authorizing the lawyer at the conclusion of a matter or engagement to return all client documents to the client or to discard some or all such documents (other than original deeds, wills or similar documents with intrinsic value).  Prior to discarding any documents, however, the attorney must take reasonable steps to preserve all documents that she has an obligation to retain or return to the client.

Securities Regulation
Letter to the SEC commenting on the Commission’s proposed amendments (File No. S7-30-09) to Rule 163 under the Securities Act of 1933 which would allow, subject to certain conditions, a well-known seasoned issuer to authorize an underwriter or dealer to act as its agent or representative in communicating about offerings of the issuer’s securities prior to the filing of a registration statement. The letter notes that while the proposed amendment to Rule 163 will advance investor protection, a number of the proposed conditions to this new use of Rule 163 are not needed from an investor protection perspective and limit the beneficial impact of the amendments, and should therefore be reconsidered.

State Affairs
Government Ethics
Professional Responsibility
Report on Reforming New York State’s Financial Disclosure Requirements for Attorney-Legislators. This report concludes that attorney-legislators in New York should be held to the same rigorous disclosure requirements as other legislators, with appropriate safeguards for privileged information and client confidentiality.  In most situations, there is no legal or ethical basis for shielding client identity, fee arrangements and the nature of the work done by attorney-legislators from the necessary sunlight of public scrutiny.

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