Minority Issues

‘This memo makes my head hurt.’

On any day of the week, it’s highly likely that a Biglaw firm will be trumpeting news of its successful diversity initiatives from any available media rooftop. The public relations folks at these law firms really want you to know that their hallowed halls aren’t completely jam-packed full of old white men — in fact, only 86.1 percent of them are old white men, so there.

Given the glowing alabaster hue of most Biglaw firms, you can see where it could be difficult for members of their so-called diversity committees to actually relate to those who are considered “diverse” in law firm parlance. We’re talking about lawyers of a different gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but in law firm world, they might as well be otherworldly beings.

We’re told that some of these foreign creatures may be working in your very own law firm. If you’d like to learn how to interact with them, feel free to take some advice from one of the most absurd diversity memos we’ve ever seen…

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Calm down, affirmative action supporters, calm down. Yes, the Supreme Court just gave every state the authority to ban affirmative action in college admissions if they so choose. Yes, Stephen Breyer sided with the majority. Yes, this all looks incredibly bad if you think that race should be at least as allowable a consideration for admission as whether or not an applicant’s daddy went to the school.

But nothing is f**ked here dude. Not really. Colleges will still use some form of race-conscious admissions policies, even state schools. Affirmative action works and nothing that happened today will change that. The Court just made it more likely that admissions committees will have to get creative when putting together a diverse class of students…

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Have you ever made a typo? Have you ever misspelled something in a written document? Have you ever made a factual error? Chances are, if you are white and you made a mistake, the person reading it didn’t notice. Or if they noticed, they made an excuse for you. Don’t worry white folks, minor clerical errors won’t detract from your overall appearance of intelligence and competence.

But if you’re black, prepare to feel like an idiot. A new study shows that when law firm partners read identical memos, the partners who believed the author was white were much more forgiving than the partners who thought the author was black.

Hang on, I need to email this study to David Lat, Bryan Garner, my mom, Matt Levine, and Partner Emeritus, from my fake, white-person, @post.harvard.edu account, so they take it seriously….

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After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee accepted a position as president of what was then called Washington College. By all accounts, he served the school well and had a nice end of life. After his death, Washington College was renamed Washington & Lee.

Today, many black people attend the university that bears Marse Robert’s surname, so I guess we won. But a group of black law students at Washington & Lee Law School is getting really sick of the university’s consistent, stars-and-bars waving support of Lee’s legacy and the whitewashing (no pun intended) of what that legacy represents.

They’ve got a list of some very specific “demands” for the Washington & Lee administration…

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Law deans from schools that did poorly in the U.S. News law school rankings can’t stop making excuses for their schools.

Most of the excuses are comical, but none of them bother me quite like the “diversity argument.” The diversity argument claims that a school’s low ranking is somehow because of the school’s commitment to diversity.

If it were a good argument, it would be an offensive one to make. People who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do shouldn’t go around begging for thanks and praise for doing the right thing. But suggesting that diversity is somehow antithetical to a strong U.S. News ranking isn’t even a good argument to begin with…

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Bumpei Sugano of Penn Law

* A surefire way to make your mom proud of you is to file a funny amicus brief with the Supreme Court, get called out for it in the New York Times, and be lauded by us at Above the Law as having filed the “best amicus brief ever.” [Daily Beast]

* Cynthia Brim, a state judge who’s been declared legally insane, wants to return to the judicial bench she’s been suspended from. Hey, you could look at it this way: at least she’d be working for her $182K salary. [Chicago Tribune]

* Our readers will be thrilled to know that beginning this year, lawyers will become obsolete. Artificial intelligence will start taking over your jobs within the next six months or so. [Wired]

* Join the Fordham OUTLaws for a Transgender Law symposium, co-sponsored by Skadden and the LGBT Bar. One of the panelists, Erin Buzuvis, is an amazing professor from my school. [Fordham Law School]

* If you care at all about how well women and minority law students are represented on law reviews, then you’ll want to come to this important event. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there, too! [Ms. JD]

* In case you were wondering, Penn Law successfully beat the crap out of Wharton (in terms of head to head win-loss record) during the 10th annual Wharton vs. Law Fight Night. [Wharton vs. Law: Fight Night]

* Meet Anthony Halmon, the second-year student at FIU Law who’s relying on his coolness to rock the vote for the SBA presidency. Check out his rap video, after the jump. [Daily Business Review (reg. req.)]

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I don’t do politics in this column.

For two good reasons: First, Lat asked me to write about life as an in-house lawyer or, at a minimum, an in-house lawyer’s perception of outside firms. If I wrote about politics, I’d be way off the mark. Second, I work at the world’s leading insurance broker for law firms. If I wrote about politics — no matter which side I took — I’d offend half my readers. Some of those offended readers would complain to their brokers, and I’d soon have a phalanx of brokers with pitchforks storming my office door.

But I’m throwing caution (and Lat’s instructions about topicality) to the wind today, and I’m posing a question that struck me recently: Set your mind back to 1983, the year in which I graduated from law school. Suppose, in 1983, someone posed this question to you:

Look into the future. When will each of these events occur? (1) We’ll elect an African-American President of the United States; (2) states will begin legalizing gay marriage; and (3) states will begin legalizing the use of marijuana. Which will occur first, second, and third, and in what years?

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Back in November 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called “nuclear option,” eliminating the threat of squelching the president’s executive branch and judicial nominations by filibuster. Under the new rules, a nominee only needs 51 votes to break a potential filibuster, instead of the 60 votes previously needed. Democratic senators lubricated nominees’ paths to confirmation. Finally, we were told, a cantankerous Republican minority could no longer block all the well-qualified, uncontroversial nominees that the president had waiting in the queue.

Nevertheless, yesterday the Senate voted to reject President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The 47 – 52 vote failed to reach the 51 votes necessary to achieve cloture and advance the nomination. Seven Democratic senators — Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, John Walsh of Montana and Chris Coons of Delaware — opposed the nominee. Adegbile is perhaps best known for his work leading litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, often known simply as LDF.

No Republicans voted against their party line. Perhaps some of them opposed his nomination on principle; perhaps some reflexively opposed an Obama nominee. The Democrats who voted against Adegbile, however, took a clear and conscious against him. Effectively, Democrats killed Adegbile’s nomination.

Why? Despite his other professional accomplishments, Adegbile’s problems in the Senate can be summed up in a word: Mumia. In six words: convicted and controversial cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal . . . .

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The first rule of state court is: you do not talk about state court.

* Foreclosure attorney Bruce Richardson alleges that Hogan Lovells partner David Dunn hit him with a briefcase in front of a court officer. That’s how they roll in state court. (Expect more on this later.) [New York Daily News; New York Post]

* From cop killer to nomination killer: Mumia’s the word that stopped Debo Adegbile’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. [Washington Post]

* In happier nomination news, congratulations to former Breyer clerk Vince Chhabria, as well as to Beth Freeman and James Donato, on getting confirmed to the federal bench for the Northern District of California. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* It’s been a good week for amicus briefs. Congrats to Professors Adam Pritchard and Todd Henderson for getting the attention — and perhaps the votes — of several SCOTUS justices. [New York Times]

* How a Cornell law student got her father to foot the bill for half of her pricey legal education. [ATL Redline]

* As I predicted, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in United States v. Maloney didn’t sweep the alleged prosecutorial misconduct under the rug by granting the government motion without comment. [The Atlantic]

* RACEISM™ alert: federal prosecutors allege that deputies to a North Carolina sheriff accused of racial profiling of Latinos shared links to a violent and racist video game. [Raleigh News & Observer]

* Speaking of mistreatment of Latinos, a recent Third Circuit decision spells good news for some immigrant communities. [Allentown Morning Call]

* Sarah Tran, the law professor who taught class from her hospital bed, RIP. [Give Forward]

A few days ago, Elie Mystal wrote about recent allegations of racist student conduct at the UCLA School of Law. I invite readers unfamiliar with the background to catch up by reading Elie’s post and, if you’ve the stomach for it, some of the many comments on his post. (It’s okay. I’ll wait.)

UCLA Dean Rachel Moran called for a police investigation. She alerted the student body. She agreed to meet with student leaders. From all I can see, the law school administration has so far handled the events appropriately. The official response balances the risk of dismissing the allegations or their importance with the risk of over-reacting and potentially polarizing the campus further.

I disagree with much of Elie’s criticism of the law school as a whole, as I disagreed with him about the Team Sanders situation at UCLA last fall.

Still, I didn’t originally want to write about UCLA this week. I drafted a post on another topic, in fact. But something about the UCLA situation, Elie’s post, and, perhaps most of all, the responses from many readers gnawed away at me. It hurt my heart. And when the desiccated husk that passes for my world-weary heart hurts, there’s usually something to it . . . .

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