Black Law Students Association

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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Justice Clarence Thomas

Elie here. Imagine Santa Claus stopping by your house — except this time Saint Nick is a mute, who stuffs your stocking with personal responsibility and brings you wooden toys, because those were the only ones available when his legend was born.

Well, joking aside, Justice Clarence Thomas will be stopping by Yale Law School on December 14th. And since there won’t be a case in front of him, he’ll actually be talking.

But not to everybody. Sources tell us — and Yale Dean Robert Post confirmed, in a school-wide email — that Justice Thomas will be speaking to the Yale Federalist Society and to the Black Law Students Association, as well as attending a class and a private reception. He won’t be making any general public appearance.

Setting aside commencement, it’s fairly typical for guest speakers (including Supreme Court justices) to speak to specific student groups and not the law school at large. If Justice Elena Kagan went to Yale, she’d likely speak to the American Constitution Society and the Socratic Hard-Ass Faculty Coven.

Some students claim, however, that the Yale administration has contacted several student organizations and asked them not to protest during Thomas’s visit. We don’t know if that’s true, and a message from Dean Post (reprinted below) does not directly mention anything about student protests. But the mere rumor of Yale trying to quash protests, circulated on “The Wall” (the YLS list-serv), has made some students angry.

Should they be? Strap yourselves in for an ATL Debate….

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* If you root for your law school alma mater over your undergrad alma mater, you are the kind of unprincipled betrayer who deserves the very worst of all that life has to offer. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Did you know that university professors could get fired for appearing in burlesque shows? [Siouxsie Law]

* Some thoughts on what black prospective law students should consider when choosing a law school, from Yolanda Young. [On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Best. Deposition transcript. Ever. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Please, please, please, let there be many character and fitness boards who will ding this law student who stomped a bird to death. [Huffington Post]

* Happy Purim, everybody. And if you are an Irish Jew, I wish your liver the best.


The Harvard-Yale Game was this weekend. I didn’t attend. I’m at that uncomfortable age where I’m too old to go to The Game and get black-out drunk at the keg, but too young to show up in a fur coat handing out glasses of Cristal (rhymes with “Mystal”) while my butler grills porterhouse steaks out of the back of my Range Rover.

I look forward to going to The Game in the future, but I’m really glad I didn’t go this year. If I had, I might have been arrested. Seriously, you would have logged on to Above the Law this morning and been entertained by my “Letter From a Boston Jail” or something.

Because if I had gone to The Game, I probably would have gone to the party hosted by the Harvard’s Black Law Student Association (and other affinity groups) at a new Boston club called Cure Lounge. And had I gone to that, when the club owners shut down the party essentially because too many black people were gathering in one place, I would have had major objections and been thrown in jail for “being an angry black person in Boston” (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days).

CORRECTION: According to the Harvard BLSA president, “Harvard BLSA was not involved in organizing or running the party in question…. [T]he event was run by a group that is not affiliated with Harvard BLSA or Harvard Law School. Harvard BLSA did cover the ticket cost of several members who attended the party.”

I wouldn’t have been able to adjust quickly enough to being back in a place like Boston, so I would have gone nuclear when somebody suggested that too many African-American Harvard and Yale students might attract “gang-bangers.”

Was there a lawyer in the line outside the club who could have objected? Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered….

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Elie here: just wanted to make sure you all know what’s coming.

Few things embarrass me like the Harvard Black Law Students Association. It could be the most credible foil to systemic racism against black law students. It has instead become a convenient tool to be used by those who wish to ignore the racial tensions in our system of legal education.

Don’t believe me? Earlier this week, we learned that a sole white kid called blacks genetically dumber than whites, and Harvard BLSA backed down — stepped and fetched, if you will — in the face of one solitary white person. It’s not the first time (we’ll get to the tragically impotent reaction to Kiwi Camara later). But at a point when the entire law school world would have at least considered what Harvard BLSA had to say, the organization sought to cover their own ass in the media, instead of standing up on the behalf of maligned black law students everywhere.

I cannot and do not wish to speak for all black law students and lawyers. But when confronted with abject racism, I can find the courage to speak for myself. I believe that gives me more balls than BLSA…

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Earlier this month, Lousiana State University heralded its victory in a lawsuit. Meanwhile, a professor at LSU Law Center was mighty disappointed. She was the one who sued the school.

Professor Darlene Goring teaches common law property, real estate transactions, and immigration law. The Northwestern Law grad also mentors the Black Law Students Association. Goring joined the faculty as an Associate Professor of Law on a tenure track in 2002. She got “indefinite tenure” in 2005, though did not get to drop the “Associate” from her title. She sued LSU in 2008, claiming the school had denied her full professorship and tenure “because of her race and her stance on law school policies.”

That all sounds rather staid. Except “law school policies” is a code word for a vicious fight with the president of the Black Law Students Association. Goring told the president in January 2007 that she was inappropriately dressed at a BLSA event in Miami — she allegedly told her that she looked like a “slut” and a “whore.” Maybe the Big Easy could use some fashion tips from the Windy City.

Then-3L Daphne M. LaSalle was not happy about being called out on her attire. She and Goring allegedly “hurled invectives and accusations” at one another; the “acrimonious” confrontation escalated, eventually playing out on Facebook…

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