Minority Issues

On Friday, we discussed the discrimination claims made against Ropes & Gray by John H. Ray III. Ray, a 2000 graduate of Harvard Law School and an African-American man, claimed that he was discriminated against and passed over for partner on account of his race.

At the time of our prior post, Ray did not comment beyond what was in his filings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). But now Ray has contacted us with his rebuttal to Ropes, explaining that when he previously declined to comment, he “did not know that you intended to rely on a determination letter that had been rescinded and largely discredited in at least its factual description by my reconsideration requests.”

John Ray’s response is lengthy and detailed. Check it out below….

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When I worked in private practice, I once had a case opposite Ropes & Gray. The Ropes lawyers made a highly positive impression on me. They were very talented advocates (and they continue to be talented advocates; note the firm’s recent, high-profile victory in the defense of an in-house lawyer for a drug company).

Of course, many top firms have excellent lawyers. The Ropes attorneys were also… nice. They were polite, and genteel, and not difficult to deal with (in contrast to some of their co-counsel). They met my expectations of what lawyers from an old white-shoe firm should be like. [FN1]

In light of this overall Ropes & Gray “niceness,” it’s a bit surprising to see discrimination claims lodged against the firm. In March, we wrote about a lawsuit filed against Ropes by Patricia Martone, a former partner and noted IP litigatrix. Martone, represented by the high-powered Anne Vladeck, alleged age discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation.

Today we bring you news of another discrimination lawsuit brewing against the firm. The potential plaintiff has an impressive pedigree. But do his claims hold water?

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Does this sign also mean no blacks or women allowed?

It’s the ruling that is splitting the Sixth Circuit apart. A federal bankruptcy judge, George Paine II, belongs to an all-white country club in Nashville. But there is a pesky judicial code of conduct that says that judges “should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin,” according to the New York Times (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

That seems cut and dry to me. An all-white, all-male country club sounds a hell of a lot like an organization practicing “invidious discrimination.” But I’m not on the Sixth Circuit.

And the Sixth Circuit essentially told Judge Paine: guys in my high school used to belong to discriminatory clubs all the time, it was no big deal.

In a 10-8 decision, the circuit decided to allow Paine to continue his membership in the club and on the bankruptcy court.

So that code of judicial conduct means what exactly?

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UVA looks tranquil -- but looks can be deceiving. (Yes, I know this is a picture of the Rotunda on Central Grounds, not the Law School. But I took it myself, when I spoke at UVA a few years ago, and wanted to use it.)

Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the academic calendar for UVA Law School. It turns out that they’re right in the middle of spring exams (which started on Monday, May 2, and finish on Friday, May 13). I can’t imagine trying to study for or take exams amidst this kind of upheaval.

And, as it turns out, the Johnathan Perkins controversy isn’t the only thing happening at the law school right now. On Friday, a 2L at UVA, Daniel Paul Watkins, was charged with stalking and assault by university police.

UPDATE (8/31/11): Daniel Watkins has been cleared of all charges.

This incident is separate from L’Affaire Perkins, but some suggest there’s a connection….

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There is this automatic assumption in any legal environment that Asians will have a particular talent for bitter labor. There was this weird self-selection where the Asians would migrate toward the most brutal part of the labor…. White people have this instinct that is really important: to give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. You’re a quarterback. It’s a kind of arrogance that Asians are trained not to have.

Tim Wu, Columbia law professor and author of The Master Switch, quoted in a very interesting New York magazine piece by Wesley Yang, Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

I wonder what Sally Hemings would say to Johnathan Perkins.

UPDATE (4 PM): The dean of UVA Law School, Paul G. Mahoney, has issued a statement about the application of the University of Virginia’s Honor System to the Johnathan Perkins incident. We have reprinted it after the jump.

White law students lie all the time and nobody makes a big deal about it, but now there’s a black law student who lies about something, and people are throwing a fit? That hardly seems right.

Look, whether or not white people want to believe it, racism is an important issue. It’s an issue that they don’t think about nearly enough. While Johnathan Perkins might have fabricated some of the details of his late-night run-in with the law (or at least university police), his goal of bringing attention to on-campus racism was laudable — and should be advanced by any means necessary.

I’m just warming up. Let me tell you what I really think about the Johnathan Perkins controversy at UVA Law School….

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Johnathan Perkins

It’s time for more race-related drama from UVA Law School. Back in February, Elie wrote about a UVA Law party that featured Confederate flag decor. Now I will tell you about a 3L’s fabricated tale of racial harassment by university police.

(Yes, Lat’s writing this story. So you can relax, UVA folks — at least for now. Maybe Elie will take a crack at it on Monday.)

In late April, Johnathan Perkins, a third-year law student at UVA, wrote a letter to the editor that was published in Virginia Law Weekly, the law school’s student newspaper. In his letter, Perkins claimed that he was harassed by UVA university police while walking home from a party, purportedly on account of his race (he’s African-American). Perkins said he was moved to share the story “because it is important for my classmates to hear a real-life anecdote illustrating the myth of equal protection under the law.”

The trouble is, it was anything but a “real-life anecdote,” as Perkins himself recently confessed….

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Talk to almost any black woman and ask her what kind of discrimination she runs up against the most: prejudice against minorities, or prejudice against women? She will probably say, “Gender discrimination, you stupid, stupid man.” I imagine you’d get a similar answer from non-black female minorities as well.

You’ll see a lot of crap if you are a minority male trying to excel professionally in this country. But a lot of it is subtle. When society craps all over women, there is no subtlety. “Show me your birth certificate.” > “Show me your [breasts].”

A new study from Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC), which we mentioned in Morning Docket, confirms what would be obvious to any man married to a woman of color (indicating). What’s slightly more surprising is that things are marginally better for minority women lawyers when they are in-house as opposed to when they’re working at a private law firm.

Actually, when you think about it, of course the in-house environment provides slightly fewer obstacles to minority females….

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Another day, another controversy over something hanging in a law school. Why is law school decor such a charged issue these days?

As some of may already know, I served as vice president of the Yale Federalist Society when I was in law school. My campaign was non-controversial. At the time, the VP was responsible for handling travel arrangements for visiting speakers, as well as for making restaurant reservations for post-talk dinners. In my speech, I talked about how much I enjoyed making travel arrangements, confessing that in high school my career goal was to become head concierge at a leading hotel. I won handily; it was a successful strategy.

I did not put up inflammatory posters that upset many members of the law school community and triggered a response from the dean — like the aspiring Fed Soc president at one midwestern law school.

Yes, we have pictures of the posters. Judge for yourself whether the posters, which have been removed, were racist and/or offensive….

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You'll bump into more black people at the Indiana State Fair than you will at the Indy Law atrium.

If you had told me at the beginning of the week that something happening at Indiana School of Law – Indianapolis would turn into a three-day Above the Law story, I would have said, “No dude, I’m not going to race-bait the Jews during Passover.”

But it turns out that my powers of racial inflammation were not needed for this Indy Law story. A student writing as “Invisible Man” managed to stoke racial passions at the school simply by finding reverse racism where few others could: in the banners hanging in the law school’s atrium. Indy Law Dean Gary Roberts found the student’s objection essentially incomprehensible, but we haven’t actually seen the law school atrium, to judge for ourselves just how oppressive these banners of black people might be to the white students that make up 80% of the Indy Law student body.

Until now. Finally, tipsters send us photos of the atrium banners, to put this whole controversy into perspective. I hope you brought your magnifying glasses to work today…

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