Procedures: Speaking for the ABA to Media

Section 25.1 of the ABA By-laws states: “The President or a person designated by the president shall express the policy of the Association determined by the House of Delegates.”

Section 25.3 states: “A member who, when making a public utterance, permits himself or herself to be identified as having an official connection with the Association or one of its sections or committees shall, if the policy of the Association on the subject matter of the utterance has been determined by the House of Delegates, fairly state that policy and, if expressing a view at variance with it, clearly identify the variance as the member’s personal view.”

  1. The President: All media opportunities, whether initiated by the ABA or presented to the ABA by media, shall be reviewed by the Media Relations & Strategic Communications Division. The President shall determine whether the ABA will speak on and issue, whether the President or someone else will be the spokesperson, and what will be said, in keeping with ABA policy. The Division shall brief the President to ensure that he or she has the facts and background necessary to make an informed decision and to represent the Association well.

  1. Legal Experts: If the communication opportunity calls for in-depth knowledge about particular legal questions, the Media Relations & Strategic Communications Division shall invite a designated subject expert to speak on the question. The spokesperson will be briefed about the medium, the reporter, the slant of the article, the specific questions that have been asked, and any other pertinent information.

  1. Legal Experts and Policy: When a speaking opportunity presents itself that requires in-depth legal knowledge and the possibility of articulating policy, the spokesperson, designated by the President, shall be informed about ABA policy by the Media Relations & Strategic Communications Division. The policy must be articulated.

  1. Blanket Authority: An ABA entity may provide expert legal comments on technical matters to a policy making or policy implementation agency when the ABA has no policy to the contrary, and after the entity has communicated its intent to support a specific position to other interested ABA entities, who do not oppose the position. Usually the types of topics permitted under Blanket Authority are highly technical or specialized to a particular area of law. When speaking under Blanket Authority, it is important that the ABA entity not declare statements to be Association policy. A good approach is to say that “As the ABA’s expert group on this topic, we have agreed to support this position. We invited commentary from other ABA groups that have an interest in this issue, and received no opposition, so we are communicating our view on the matter.”

  1. No Policy Exists: When a speaking opportunity presents itself and no ABA policy exists to frame the response, the designated spokesperson is directed to provide the response as a personal view, not as ABA policy, and to state specifically that no ABA policy exists.

  1. Non-Policy Topic: When a speaking opportunity presents itself that involves topics not related to policy, the spokesperson is directed to factually represent the matter under discussion, mention the ABA role in the matter, and avoid getting the discussion into potential policy topics by staying on message.

  1. In all instances, the Media Relations & Strategic Communications Division shall brief the spokesperson, develop background information that helps the spokesperson understand the media environment at hand, and help prepare an appropriate response.