Minority Issues

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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For the past eight years, the National Association of Women Lawyers has tracked women’s progress at the 200 largest firms in the nation by comparing their careers and compensation with similarly situated men. We snidely remarked last year that reviewing the most recent report was like “drinking a fifth of gin, then watching Requiem For A Dream: it’s really freaking depressing.”

Keeping that in perspective, we — perhaps over-optimistically — thought that in a year’s time, Biglaw firms would have realized that women have a rightful place in this profession, and deserve to be treated as fairly and as equally as their male counterparts. We were clearly and painfully delusional.

Sure, the percentage of female equity partners rose from 15 percent to 17 percent, and that’s great. But we’ve found out that an “unprecedented” number of Biglaw firms refused to participate in the survey. Was it because they’re sick of surveys, or was it because firms “are generally less interested in the subject of advancing women lawyers and/or are hesitant to share, even on an anonymous and confidential basis, statistics that show that their women lawyers lag behind their male counterparts”?

Let’s find out….

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It started with “Team Sander.” In November, we told you that some students at UCLA Law School started wearing T-shirts in support of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose scholarship is racially divisive. Some people argued that the shirts were not racially motivated, and even some of my colleagues argued that they needed to “know more” about the intentions behind the shirts before they started calling people racist.

Well… now we know more, and “racist” seems like the only appropriate way to describe at least some students at UCLA Law. Now the question becomes: does the law school administration give a crap?

Read on for the disturbing allegations….

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A tipster sent in a flyer of a Valentine’s Day giveaway being sponsored by a black law students association, and honestly, I hope the BLSA was set up. Seriously, it would be better if racist white people promoted this event as a way to troll black people than if actual black people thought this would be a good idea.

In fact, screw it, that’s the frame I’m going with. New headline: Black Law Students Trolled By Racists On Valentine’s Day…

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* According to Justice Kagan, Justice Ginsburg “is responsible for eliminating sex discrimination from American law.” Whoa, that’s a nice thought, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves with wishful thinking. [New York Law Journal]

* After handing out pink slips staff, Heenan Blaikie lawyers sat down and voted to dissolve the Canadian firm’s partnership and wind up its business. It’s kind of like Dewey, but with maple syrup! [Legal Post / Financial Post]

* Jack W. Butler, the bankruptcy bigwig who managed to negotiate the American Airlines / US Airways merger, will leave his home at Skadden Arps after 23 years and head to Hilco Global. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Vermont Law School has partnered with several historically black colleges and universities in order to put warm bodies in empty seats promote the expansion of racial diversity in the legal profession. [VT Digger]

* David Savner, a corporate partner at Jenner & Block, recently donated $1 million to his alma mater, Northwestern Law, to fund a high-tech classroom. It must be nice to be rich. [Crain's Chicago Business]

* The ABA Journal wants to know what the “oddest” elective course you ever took in law school was. If you took a “Law and _____” class and didn’t get an “A,” you should hang your head in shame. [ABA Journal]

Amy Chua

As opposed to Chinese Tigers robotically assembling Apple products, isn’t it more wondrous to behold the specter of two Chinese-Jewish Ivy League law ­professor/successful author Hybrid Tigers who’ve fashioned Yale student research (from a 2008 project) into a dull but probably lucrative book? Such are the rewards of our American meritocracy.

Sandra Tsing Loh, writing in the New York Times Book Review about The Triple Package (affiliate link), the new book by Professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School.

(Additional highlights from the review, after the jump.)

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Law is not an especially racially diverse profession. More than 93 percent of partners are white, and less than two percent are black, according to 2013 statistics from NALP. A little over four percent of associates are black. A single African American lawyer argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the entire OT 2012. By contrast, African Americans account for approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Perhaps you think these statistics reflect persistent, pervasive race bias, even hatred. Perhaps you worry, as I do, that many good potential lawyers are excluded from the profession by a combination of obstacles that disproportionately affect the black community. Or perhaps you think many African Americans are just too damned smart to board the sinking ship that you think is the American legal world’s “New Normal.”

For purposes of present discussion, let’s say that, ceteris paribus, increasing the number of black lawyers would be good. How should law school admissions policies promote this goal?

Last Friday, Elie wrote about a Daily Caller article revealing plans at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law. The plans involved faculty discussion of a new admissions program designed to recruit more black law students. Elie decried the article, lauded the proposed program, and suggested that it was not unconstitutional. Dan Greenberg, quoted in both the DC article and Elie’s, responded.

I agree with Elie that the DC article was lousy — poorly researched, misleadingly written, and blatantly inflammatory. I agree with Dan Greenberg, however, that UALR’s proposal almost certainly would not withstand the strict scrutiny analysis required of race-based admissions programs.

What is so wrong with admissions policies like this one? Even if we agree that encouraging and including more black law school applicants is a good thing, there are fairer, constitutionally permissible ways to achieve that goal without relying on ham-fisted race-based criteria. Ironically, we need look no further than the text of the LEAP proposal itself to see an example….

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