Attorney Laurel G. Bellows of the Bellows Law Group P.C. played no part in the choice of Chicago as the site of this year's American Bar Association Annual Meeting.
But Bellows could not have chosen a more appropriate location to begin her term as ABA president.
Among the programs the ABA will pursue during her yearlong term is a campaign against human trafficking, Bellows said.
Bellows said an estimated 100,000 Americans and an unknown number of foreign nationals get forced or coerced into providing labor or sexual services.
"It's a huge problem that most people are totally unaware of," Bellows said in a recent interview.
Bellows said Illinois' crackdown on this modern-day form of slavery provides an example of how ABA members and others can help battle trafficking.
An Illinois statute criminalizes the trafficking of people, Bellows said. And it also allows trafficking victims to expunge convictions for prostitution or other offenses they were forced to commit, she said.
People who pushed for the law included Cook County State's Attorney Anita M. Alvarez, Bellows said.
Last year, Alvarez's office conducted the first trial in Cook County in a human trafficking case. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison for running a sex ring that forced women to prostitute themselves.
Other ABA members who already fight human trafficking include U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall and T. Markus Funk, who formerly served as a federal prosecutor in Chicago.
Kendall and Funk co-authored a book on child exploitation and led an ABA committee on human trafficking from 2008 to 2010.
Funk, the ABA's special adviser to the Uniform Law Commission, is helping draft a uniform state statute on human trafficking.
"It is a serious problem in every state of the union and around the world," Funk said in a telephone interview from Denver, where he now practices law as a partner at Perkins, Coie LLP.
The ABA Annual Meeting began today. Bellows will succeed ABA President William T. "Bill" Robinson III, the member in charge of the Covington, Ky., office of Frost, Brown, Todd LLC, at the close of the meeting on Tuesday.
During the meeting, the ABA will offer about 1,400 classes, panel discussions, awards presentations and other events.
On Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others will discuss how to respond to disasters caused by acts of terrorism.
Also on Friday, panelists who include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. plan to participate in a program called, "Arias of Law: The Rule of Law at Work in the Performance Arts."
In another program on Friday, Sandra Fluke will discuss the legal profession and its promotion of civility. Fluke is the Georgetown Law School student who commentator Rush Limbaugh singled out for her support of insurance coverage for contraception.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will give the keynote address at the opening assembly Saturday.
On Sunday, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and other panelists will debate "New Voter Registration Laws: Fighting Voter Fraud or Suppressing the Vote?"
Separate programs on how to serve as poll workers will occur for lawyers and members of the public. The program for lawyers plans to feature the debut of the ABA website: ambar.org/vote.
On Monday and Tuesday, ABA delegates will debate resolutions on such matters as professional ethics, political contributions, religious profiling and the roles of prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys.
The resolutions will not become ABA policy unless the 560-member House of Delegates adopts them. Resolutions may be amended before put to a final vote.
One resolution calls for governments to review child abuse laws to determine whether the statute of limitations should be extended in light of the perpetrator's abuse of trust and the victim's age and inability to report the crime.
Beadle County State's Attorney Michael R. Moore in Huron, S.D., said many victims do not report their abuse for years because of threats or manipulation by the perpetrator.
Moore, a member of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, said Jerry Sandusky's case increased the public's awareness of child abuse.
Sandusky, a retired Penn State University assistant football coach, was convicted in June of 45 counts for sexually abusing young boys over 15 years.
"That case highlighted that lawmakers and everybody that has an interest in these cases has to take a long, hard look at what their statutes of limitations are, what their mandatory reporting requirements are, and see if they are the best they can be to protect victims of these crimes," Moore said.