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SAN FRANCISCO – In an effort to promote its image and woo other attorneys who may not be aware of its existence, the Credit Union Committee of the business law section of the American Bar Association will soon start offering free legal services to newly-chartered credit unions. The measure, approved by the committee during its meeting at the ABA’s annual conference held in August, will match up attorneys with credit unions and provide counsel for a period of one year on a volunteer basis, said Brian Witt, chairman of the 120-member ABA Credit Union Committee. TULIP Credit Union is scheduled to be among the first to receive outside legal support. “There are a number of new credit unions out there looking for resources and as a group, we should be willing to offer our services,” Witt said. The San Francisco agenda also contained a number of timely industry topics including updates on the Internal Revenue Service’s Unrelated Business Income Tax in various states and credit union compliance with the U.S. Patriot Act. Given the developments in federal preemption of state consumer lending laws, the committee will also prepare a white paper on the topic to be published in early 2004. Witt said because there is no “global uniform law that clarifies whether state consumer protection laws should be applied to federal credit unions,” each case is looked at on an individual basis. Witt said collectively, the group has not issued comment letters on industry concerns but individually, members have spoken out on issues such as overdraft protection, saying “the hidden, unquantifiable costs of not covering overdrafts could be more insidious than the overdraft fees now imposed under current disclosure laws.” They’ve also commented on strategies for credit unions dealing with Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies and ways to serve personnel who are called to active duty or who are returning under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Meanwhile, the ABA celebrated a first when it elected Dennis Archer, a former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and mayor of Detroit to become the only African-American to head the legal group in its 125-year history. In a 2002 council report, the Credit Union Committee said the reestablishment of its membership committee will actively seek out new members, especially women and minority attorneys to increase diversity. Witt said the group “is one of the most diverse” committees under ABA and has encouraged attorneys from all walks of life to join. “It’s always an ongoing goal of ours to reach out to more attorneys,” Witt said of the credit union legal group formed in 1978. “I think (Archer’s) tenure will continue to bring strong leadership especially regarding diversity.” Members of the ABA Credit Union Committee, who are also members in good standing with the ABA, belong to three subcommittees – operations, supervision and electronic transactions. The ABA has more than 50 committees representing various professions. [email protected]

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