ABA Launches First-Ever Hispanic Commission
The upcoming November election and the ranking of Hispanics as the fastest growing minority segment of the population are the impetus for formation of the _ Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities.
The culmination of Hispanic Heritage Month in October provided the opportunity for Stephen N. Zack – the first Hispanic-American to head the ABA – to launch the commission at a National Press Club news conference on Oct. 14.
“Hispanic Americans have become the largest minority group in America,” Zack said. “To make a meaningful contribution, they need fair, equal access to justice and full integration into our legal system, and profession. We expect from them that they will be thoughtful and committed members of our civic life. This commission will spend the next year laying out a plan that identifies and responds to the legal rights and responsibilities of these citizens and future leaders.”
The commission will be composed of several dozen individuals representing national legal and civic organizations. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and music producer Emilio Estefan are the honorary co-chairs. Cesar Alvarez, managing partner of Greenberg Traurig LLP, the seventh largest U.S. law firm, is commission chairperson.
The commission will hold four public hearings across the country to hear about the challenges that Hispanic-Americans face accessing the American legal system. For example, in-court translation services are not always available for Spanish speakers and consequently those individuals may not fully understand the implications of the Miranda warning, when read to them.
The commission will also explore the Hispanic community’s civic responsibilities that accompany their growing status in the U.S. population. Zack wants to enhance an appreciation of American history among Hispanic students and promote a sense of social obligation. He believes that citizens’ commitment to society is necessary for democracy to thrive.
The first hearing will be in Chicago on Nov. 12. Successive hearings will be held in California, New York and Texas in cities to be determined in the near future.
The commission will:
- Investigate legal access for the fastest growing minority population in the United States;
- Convene legal and Hispanic advocacy organizations to review legal disparities in the U.S. justice system;
- Explore impediments to access to justice by Hispanic individuals;
- Make policy recommendations to the ABA leadership based on the findings at the four regional hearings.
More information about the Commission can be found here.