Our latest grammar poll pertains to usage, but it has a political component to it as well. It touches on hot-button issues like affirmative action and racial preferences, about which our readers have passionate opinions.
The question, in a nutshell: What does it mean to be a “diverse” individual?
Does George Will look like the protector of Black America to you?
People who think giving charity to those less fortunate also gives them the right to direct the personal choices of those receiving the charity are some of the worst people on the planet. The biggest offenders are religious organizations: “Ooh, here’s some food. Yes. You like food, don’t you? I bet you’re hungry — I can tell ’cause I can see your ribs. Well, it’s all you can eat in here… first, just say you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. SAY IT. Wonderful. Bon appétit!”
Organizations do it all the time, but there are plenty of individuals who also think giving a guy a buck gives them the right to tell the recipient how to spend the money. This behavior is the worst because it takes what should be a generous gesture (giving somebody money) and turns it into a cheap way to make a BS point about your moral superiority (“If this man did just one thing more like me, he wouldn’t have to beg for my scraps.”).
If you want to help, help. But don’t use “helping” as an excuse to further some ridiculous personal agenda. You’ll just look like an idiot. You’ll just look like George Will prancing around the pages of the Washington Post trying to act like he is against affirmative action because he suddenly wants the Supreme Court to step up to the plate and “help” black people….
According to a new study by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, discussed in an article in the Denver University Law Review, “the vast majority of American law students come from relatively elite backgrounds; this is especially true at the most prestigious law schools, where only five percent of all students come from families whose SES [socioeconomic status] is in the bottom half of the national distribution.”
In other breaking news, studies show that the vast majority of people who get into water emerge wet.
It’s beyond obvious that American law schools favor the elite. Talent will take you far, but having a financially sound family will take you farther. Professor Sander — whose prior research on law school prestige generated lots of buzz last year — argues that schools should use socioeconomic factors as a partial substitute for racial preferences.
Well, that’s a false choice if I ever heard one. Why can’t we have both socioeconomic and race-based affirmative action? Look, you can accuse me of playing the “race card” if you want to, but I’m just trying to figure out a way to help white people get into law school….
* With yesterday’s decision from Pennsylvania, the game is now tied for Obamacare at the federal district court level. Come on, SCOTUS, just grant someone certiorari already. [Bloomberg]
* Keep this in mind if you’re applying to law school this year: if you’re white, it ain’t aight. Who knew that there could be “anti-white bias” in a place where everyone’s white, like Wisconsin? [National Law Journal]
Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the colorful figure of Shanetta Cutlar. She was a high-powered Department of Justice lawyer who was known for her high-handed treatment of DOJ subordinates and colleagues.
(Read the blockquote in this post to get a sense of her antics, or read this juicy letter to former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, in which ex-Cutlar underling Ty Clevenger describes the “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” created by Shanetta.)
We haven’t covered Shanetta Cutlar since March 2010, when she stepped down from her post as chief of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). After she left SPL, she took a post in the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Office of Justice Programs (“OJP”). This move was interpreted by some DOJ insiders as a form of exile for the controversial Cutlar.
We haven’t heard anything about her since her move to OJP — until now….
Here’s seemingly every affirmative action conversation I’ve had since I started working at Above the Law:
PLEBES: Affirmative action is racist — reverse-racist. It lets an under-qualified minority get into a school I deserved to get into, just because of their skin color! And why? Because 100 years ago things were tough for blacks? Not fair! [Some quote from Justice Roberts I'll care about the minute I care about what an aging white man thinks about racial harmony in America.]
ELIE: Actually, affirmative action can be justified by simply pointing out that diversity of thought and experience is essential when it comes to educating people.
PLEBES: It should be about merit! [Quotes standardized test statistics as if the LSAT is both objective and a standard of merit.] If you get a higher score on a test, you should get in over someone who gets a lower score. That’s merit!
ELIE: But we know that universities look at all sorts of things when considering applicants. They look at whether you have any other talents like sports or music. They look at legacy status…
PLEBES: [Foaming at the mouth now] Legacies are an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THING. We’re talking about discrimination based on RACE. That’s ILLEGAL!
We’ve come a long way from the days when federal courts issued orders banning racial discrimination. Now federal judges hand down orders mandating, or at least encouraging, race-based discrimination.
As reported in the American Lawyer, earlier this week Judge Harold Baer (S.D.N.Y.) issued an unusual order. On Monday, Judge Baer directed two firms serving as lead counsel in a securities class action to “make every effort” to staff the case with at least one minority and one woman:
ORDERED that Co-Lead Counsel, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP, shall make every effort to assign to this matter at least one minority lawyer and one woman lawyer with requisite experience….
If federal judges can run school districts and prison systems, law firms should be a piece of cake, right?
The Nine are all divine — but not all Supreme Court justices are created equal. Some are smarter than others. If you quiz former Supreme Court clerks, as we have, you’ll find that the Elect have strong opinions about who the smartest and most capable members of the Court are. (Depressingly enough, even after you became a justice of the United States Supreme Court, people will still rank you by your smarts.)
Liberal and conservative clerks alike generally cite Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as one of the sharpest and most self-sufficient — i.e., least clerk-dependent and clerk-driven — of the current justices. So some may be surprised by these tidbits, from RBG’s fascinating interview with Emily Bazelon (herself a descendant of Article III aristocracy, the granddaughter of David Bazelon, former chief judge of the Most Holy D.C. Circuit)
What do you think about Judge Sotomayor’s frank remarks that she is a product of affirmative action?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: So am I. I was the first tenured woman at Columbia. That was 1972, every law school was looking for its woman. Why? Because Stan Pottinger, who was then head of the office for civil rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was enforcing the Nixon government contract program. Every university had a contract, and Stan Pottinger would go around and ask, How are you doing on your affirmative-action plan? William McGill, who was then the president of Columbia, was asked by a reporter: How is Columbia doing with its affirmative action? He said, It’s no mistake that the two most recent appointments to the law school are a woman and an African-American man.
And was that you?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I was the woman. I never would have gotten that invitation from Columbia without the push from the Nixon administration. I understand that there is a thought that people will point to the affirmative-action baby and say she couldn’t have made it if she were judged solely on the merits. But when I got to Columbia I was well regarded by my colleagues even though they certainly disagreed with many of the positions that I was taking. They backed me up: If that’s what I thought, I should be able to speak my mind.
Of course, the case for affirmative action back then, over 30 years ago, may have been stronger than it is today.
More discussion, plus the chance for you to sound off in the comments, after the jump.
* A new report from the Project for Attorney Retention (sounds like something we can all get behind) shows that it makes better business sense to have attorneys work reduced hours rather than laying them off. [The American Lawyer]
* More drama in the never-ending Minnesota Senate race: Al Franken says Norm Coleman should pay for the costs of the trial if he loses. [MSNBC]
* California’s 1996 ban of affirmative action in education, public hiring, or contracting is being closely considered by the courts. [National Law Journal]
A Haitian woman is suing one of the world’s largest law firms for $75 million, claiming that the firm used her only as window dressing because of her race, fired her for complaining about it, and finally blacklisted her in the New York law community.
Caroline Memnon, who is black, says in the lawsuit that despite her $125,000 salary as an associate at the New York office of London-based Clifford Chance LLP, she was never given any real work….
After firing her in 2002, Clifford Chance, known at the time as Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, “surreptitiously ‘blackballed’ [her] within the community of New York law firms,” the suit says….
“We believe this claim to be without merit and will be contesting the case,” a Clifford Chance spokeswoman said.
Did Clifford Chance “blackball” her? Or did they just give her a less-than-stellar job reference, which employers are certainly entitled to do? [FN1]
Two other law firms, Chadbourne & Parke and Manatt Phelps & Phillips, both offered Ms. Memnon employment and then withdrew their offers, according to the lawsuit….
[Ms. Memnon] was hired by Sullivan & Worcester’s New York office and began working in February 2007. Sullivan & Worcester terminated her employment that March, though she billed 143 hours in her first three weeks there, which is above the firm’s expectation of 150 hours a month, the suit says.
The shortness of her stay at Sullivan makes one wonder if other issues are at work here. Could Caroline Memnon be another Charlene Morisseau — although probably less fabulous, since the divalicious Morisseau is in a class by herself?
[FN1] Does anyone else remember that Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where Larry David “recommends” someone for a job with Richard Lewis? Larry intends to make the recommendation a tepid one — “recommend,” in scare-quotes — but Richard doesn’t pick up on that. Law firms may be more attentive to such nuances. Woman Sues Law Firm Over Blacklisting [New York Sun]
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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