Minority Issues

Judge Lynn N. Hughes

Being a federal judge is like being a professional boxer: you have to know when it’s time to hang up the robe. (Yes, pare, I’m talking to you, Congressman Pacquiao.)

How does a federal judge know when it’s time to retire (not just senior status, but complete and total retirement)? Well, how about when he starts making bizarre, offensive, and racially charged comments — on the record?

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Yesterday, in addition to being Inauguration Day, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We suggested that people use the holiday to engage in public service.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo. At one leading law school, someone used the three-day weekend to vandalize the office of an LGBT student group.

We’ll show you a photo of the hateful graffiti. Warning: it’s pretty extreme and explicit….

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The Colonel says ‘leave me out of this.’

We now have judicial notice that making jokes about the president and fried chicken is probably racist.

Granted, “all these years, I thought I liked chicken because it was delicious.” But living up north, it’s pretty well-established that suggesting black people have a predisposition for eating chicken is prima facie racist and likely to start a fight. That’s not because I’m “sensitive” or “playing the race card.” It’s because generalizing about the foods black people eat has been used as a tool for racial stigmatization for a long time in this country.

That history somehow escaped Judge Lynn Hughes.

We’ve written about Hughes before. He’s a guy who can throw a benchslap. He’s also a guy who has been described as “[u]nquestionably the single worst judge in the Southern District of Texas” on The Robing Room (where lawyers can post anonymously about judges).

But one of his flippant remarks to an African-American plaintiff drew the ire of the Fifth Circuit, even as they were affirming his ultimate result.

You know that you have strayed a little too far from the flock when the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) is schooling you on racial sensitivity….

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* Wait, are we really going to have to debate the legal merits of this platinum coin thing? Really? Can’t Congress just not hold the country hostage so we don’t have to start messing around with crazy coins and the Fourteenth Amendment? Like, you don’t have to start doing bats**t crazy Carrie Mathison things if you don’t let terrorists take Nicholas Brody in the first place. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* There was another school shooting today. It just makes you wonder if the terrible reign ushered in by Grand Theft Auto will ever end. At least, in this case, the teacher was armed to the teeth WITH WORDS to TALK DOWN the shooter. [Huffington Post]

* “Illegal” trades don’t mean the same thing to bankers as they do to everybody else. Well, that’s not true. Maybe the disconnect is more with the word “consequences.” [Dealbreaker]

* Yeah, I’m going to go on and say that I’m not going to believe anything coming out of the Trayvon Martin police report. Just like I wasn’t considering anything coming out of racist ass Mark Fuhrman. [Tampa Bay Times]

* There’s a lot to lose if Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act gets struck down. [Slate]

* I suppose it’s good that lawyers don’t have “I’m going to do a half-assed job here” fees. [Underdog]

I must confess to having a tin ear when it comes to issues of race. My view on racial issues is like my view on sports: What’s the big deal? Why does everyone care so much?

Perhaps it’s because I’m Asian; we tend to be bystanders as African-Americans and whites yell at each other. Perhaps it’s because I’m Filipino-American; we are total mutts a very hybrid people. Not to go all Fauxcahontas on you, but according to my (not genealogically verified) family lore, I have Malay, Chinese, Spanish, British, and Czech ancestry.

And thanks to the rise of intermarriage in the United States, my kind of ethnic hybridity is the wave of the future. In fifty or 100 or 150 years, more people will have my blasé attitude about race because “race” as a concept will be so much less salient. To tweak the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to intermarry so much so that nobody knows what race anybody else is.”

In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of racial tension to go around. Today we bring you allegations of racism at a law school, countered by allegations of playing the race card (i.e., crying racism in bad faith or without sufficient proof).

Let’s take a look at the latest heated controversy, taking place at a top law school….

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We’ve previously covered the departure of Paul Schiff Berman as dean of George Washington University Law School. There was a lot of intrigue regarding Dean Berman’s departure.

Now it appears that the decision on Dean Berman’s replacement is also steeped in controversy. Today, GW Law named Professor Gregory Maggs as its interim dean. In so doing, the school passed over their Senior Associate Dean, Christopher Bracey. Instead of promoting Bracey into the interim dean position, he’ll stay on at GW, under Maggs.

This seems like a good time to point out that Maggs is white and Bracey is black.

And so let’s play our game, because a member of the GW Law Faculty, who is also black, had a real problem with the decision to pass over Bracey. She called it “not the law school’s finest hour” in a message to the entire faculty. And then she subtly told another faculty member to go jump in a lake.

Fun times….

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Wait, that’s the wrong answer.

It’s been great fun to watch archconservatives wake up and realize what country they’ve been living in this whole time. Minorities vote too. Single women don’t like being called sluts. Gays and lesbians are everywhere. And people can understand that sometimes, taxes are necessary.

The emerging American consciousness — from both Democrats and Republicans — that if we want government to do things we have to pay for them with taxes, has been particularly fun to watch. In Austin, Texas, there was a ballot initiative which contemplated raising property takes to in order to pay for “a medical school in Austin and other health care projects,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. And it passed!

But that didn’t sit well with some Texans. Don Zimmerman, treasurer of the Travis County Taxpayers Union political action committee, argued that the initiative — called Proposition 1 — was discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. Zimmerman and his attorney argued that Prop 1 was confusing to minorities who “have lower reading comprehension than whites.”

Maybe so, but I sho’nuff can spy me a racist when I done read one….

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A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the On Being A Black Lawyer’s ranking of the best law schools for black people. I thought that list was pretty useful.

This one is less so.

I’m looking at the National Jurist rankings of “most diverse law schools” and, I gotta tell you, I can’t really see why anybody would or should care about them. Don’t get me wrong, I like diversity, I think it’s critically important to a good educational environment.

But I guess I find “diversity” to be a kind of binary issue: either you have a diverse campus, or you don’t. And we can argue about what makes a place diverse, what gets you over that intangible line. But being the “most diverse” is kind of like being the “most wet” person at the beach. I’m sure that distinction goes to somebody, but the key distinction is separating the wet from the dry.

I dunno, maybe I’d be more interested if any of these “most diverse” student bodies had better than a “snowball’s chance in hell” at getting a job….

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Beat up your copier, not your clients.

* As a tipster wrote, “This judge done lost her mind.” We don’t know about that, but something is clearly wrong here. [Chicago Sun-Times]

* Another brutal — yet disarmingly tender — takedown of the bros who run IsAnybodyDown. [Popehat]

* Robert Morton Duncan, the first black justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, RIP. [Times Union]

* Yes, clients can be royal pains in the behind. But you still can’t hit an obnoxious client over the head with a baseball bat. [Charleston Gazette]

* Major Kudos to McGuireWoods for the firm’s support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. We encourage other firms (and individuals) to do the same. [American Red Cross]

* “As American as the modern prison system” doesn’t have the same ring as “apple pie.” For better or worse, though, it’s equally true. [Cruel and Unusual]

* LawDingo is a new company that connects potential clients with lawyers — all from the convenience of home. It’s the way of the future! [Dow Jones]

I’d like to live in a world where the list of best law schools “for black people” was exactly the same as the list of best law schools “for people.”

I think we’re close. Black people are already conditioned to make the same stupid decisions based on the U.S. News rankings as white people have been making for a generation. And while there are still some unhelpful people who try to tell black people that the reasons for going to law school are somehow radically different for them than for everybody else, for the most part, people understand that black people go to law school for the same reason white people do: jobs.

Still, we’re not quite there, in large part because the strength and vibrancy of the black community can vary greatly between law schools. In this day and age, nobody should expect to be the “only” black student in their small section. Everybody should expect access to a diverse law school faculty. But some law schools do a better job of providing those kinds of environments than others.

Now, usually when I see a non-U.S. News law school ranking, I make fun of it. That’s because there is usually some kind of huge, methodological problem with them. And then, of course, there is the pathetic joke that is the Cooley Law School Rankings. In general, non-U.S. News rankings fail either by offering no new information than what is already captured by U.S. News, or by looking at completely stupid information that nobody cares about.

With that in mind, I opened The Black Student’s Guide To Law School with a lot of skepticism. I mean, unless they figured out how to capture the all important “racist apologist per oblivious white person” metric, I wasn’t sure there would be a lot of utility here.

But having thumbed through the guide and their ranking of the top 25 national law schools for black people, I have to say that there is a lot of good stuff in here. And I’m not just saying that because Yale Law plummets to #19….

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