Affirmative Action

There are data breaches, and then there are data dummies. The people at Baylor Law seem to be in the latter category.

Nobody was trying to steal the personal information of the admitted students at Baylor Law. But a screw-up by someone at the school resulted in all of the personal information of the admitted class getting transmitted to everybody else in the admitted class.

All of it. Names, addresses, grades, and LSAT scores. Pretty much everything besides social security numbers.

And, we have it….

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I called it, but it wasn’t a hard call to make.

Last year, the Fifth Circuit upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action plan in Fisher v. University of Texas. But they did so in a petulant, childish manner, as if somebody was forcing them to eat their vegetables. At the time, I said they were openly begging for a right-wing Supreme Court to review and overturn their ruling.

It looks like the members of the Fifth Circuit are going to get their wish. The Supreme Court granted cert on Fisher, and now we get to have an affirmative action debate right in the middle of an election cycle where a black man is running for reelection.

I’m sure that last part is just coincidence though….

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In Grammer Pole of the Weak, we typically tackle issues of English grammar and usage, as well as questions of style (in terms of legal writing, not fashion). Last week, we delved into the fun topic of em-dash spacing, and learned that our readers are essentially deadlocked on whether to use a space before and after an em dash. In the end, using spaces prevailed by a margin as narrow as Mitt Romney’s Iowa caucus victory.

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?

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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….

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Poor little white boy.

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….

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* 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]

* Mark McCombs, the ex-Greenberg Traurig partner who overbilled for prestige, was sentenced to six years. Not a good way to thank your town for naming a street after you. [Am Law Daily]

* An Indian restaurant is accused of forcing Indian customers to give 18% tips. Here’s a tip: don’t punch customers in the face, and maybe they’ll give you a tip on their own. [New York Daily News]

* No soup (or supplements) for you! Curtis Allgier, a Utah prisoner awaiting his murder trial, wants seconds during dinner so he can get back to his fighting killing weight. [Boston Globe]

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….

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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!

But maybe people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss concerns about legacy admissions. According to Richard D. Kahlenberg, editor of a new book called Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, legacy admissions are bad policy — and potentially unconstitutional…

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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?

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg cancer surgery.jpgThe 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.

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