Minority Issues

I didn’t go to Eric Holder’s big speech at the ABA annual meeting on Monday. I kind of halfheartedly tried to go, but there were a lot of people who wanted to see Holder say something they could’ve read about online hours earlier.

If the ABA had invited Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over to speak about the horrendous abuse of federal funds by purveyors of higher education, I’d have smashed my way in. But in the crush of people trying to get a look at the Attorney General trying to dismantle a big part of the United States “War On Drugs,” I was reminded that regulating legal education is a small part of what the ABA does — and a part that isn’t of great institutional importance to the organization. The ABA wants a seat at the policy table when it comes to big sexy issues of justice and legal services. Preventing member institutions from price-gouging young people doesn’t get its logo splashed across all the major news networks.

So, Eric Holder delivered a big policy address. And later, by which point I was on a plane, Hillary Clinton spoke about how she’ll be speaking about other things as she doesn’t run for president just yet. Holder! Hillary! Marvel at the ABA’s relevance in national policy debates!

Except, they’re not relevant. Holder did make an important speech on Monday, and he couldn’t have found a more supportive group for his take-down of mandatory minimums had he been speaking to potheads in Golden Gate Park. But really, the ABA isn’t going to be any more helpful when it comes to actually convincing Congress than a meeting of the 4:20 club…

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[T]he city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.

– Judge Shira Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.), in a ruling declaring that the New York Police Department’s hotly debated stop-and-frisk tactics violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

(Continue reading to see Judge Scheindlin’s glorious 195-page opinion. It’s a legal document that should be on every lawyer’s required reading list.)

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The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an “HBCU” as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” Out of 105 current HBCUs, five of them operate law schools: Howard University, Texas Southern University, Southern University, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina Central University. The University of the District of Columbia also enrolls a predominantly black student body, and is home to a law school, but it is not considered an official HBCU by the Higher Education Act of 1965 because it was formed after 1964.

These schools purport to fulfill a noble mission: opening the doors to the legal profession once shut by generations of racial oppression. They offer not only a distinctive purpose in admissions but also a distinctive experience for their students and faculty. Providing access to legal education to historically — and often contemporarily — disenfranchised black men and women is a laudable goal.

Do you know what else is a laudable goal? Getting those same men and women to pass the bar exam so that they can actually practice law. And there’s the rub….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What’s More Racist? The Trouble With Low Bar Passage Rates At Historically Black Law Schools”

Why do law firms have a tendency to partake in racism despite — theoretically — understanding the laws that should discourage such behavior? Like “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop,” the world may never know.

In the meantime, ATL will be there to talk about it.

Like a law firm whose white management might hold an event for their black associates and serve fried chicken because… you know.

Racism. It’s a thing…

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* The speed (or lack thereof) of justice: The DOJ filed suit against Bank of America, alleging that the bank defrauded mortgage-backed securities investors in 2008. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Sri Srinivasan, the newest member of the D.C. Circuit’s bench, is getting ready to hear his first arguments, while litigants try to commit the spelling of his last name to memory. [Legal Times]

* The LSAT is not to blame for the dearth of minority enrollment in law schools, said a UVA Law professor, and then a Cooley Law professor had to swoop in to slap him down. [National Law Journal]

* After teaming up with Touro, the University of Central Florida is working with Barry on an accelerated degree program. The dean of FAMU is upset. Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn, too. [Orlando Sentinel]

* New Jersey is in no rush to legalize gay marriage. To support their views, officials point out that people with civil unions are just like married couples — except for the married part. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* Meanwhile, a judge in Illinois will decide whether she’ll dismiss a challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban by the end of September. In her defense, early fall is a great time for a wedding. [Daily Herald]

* Belvin Perry, the judge who presided over the Casey Anthony murder trial, may be getting his own Judge Judy-esque television show. Oh, Flori-duh, you never, ever cease to entertain us. [MSN News]

We’ve just entered August, so you know what that means: the start of on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student researching firms or a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting efforts, check out Above the Law’s law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories. Law firms might look alike on the surface, but there are very real differences between them, as our grading system reflects.

For example, law firms diverge when it comes to diversity. While every firm gives lip service to diversity, some firms have the goods to back up their claims, while others do not.

Let’s check out the latest diversity rankings, from two different news outlets, to see which firms are truly diverse….

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I do not understand people who are too uneducated to know multiple languages who get pissed at people who don’t speak multiple languages perfectly.

I get it, this is ‘Murica. And most people here speak English. And if you go to receive a government service, it’s reasonable to expect that service to be provided in your native tongue. I’d be pissed off if I went to the DMV and all of the instructions were in Spanish or French or Chinese, but not English.

But if they’re in English… what do I care if they’re also in everything else? What do I care if everybody else is speaking a different language? If I can conduct my government business in my native tongue in my native country, what do I care if some Spanish-speaking AMERICAN CITIZEN can also conduct his business in HIS native tongue in HIS native country? Christ preaching in Aramaic, a good translation never hurt anybody.

Of course, I live in New York. I can spell Bhutanese. There’s a lawsuit today from a nursing school student who claims she was unfairly suspended from school after allegedly being racist to Spanish speakers in her school.

I’d say she’d lose, but we’re talking about Arizona, so who the hell knows…

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Before the George Zimmerman verdict, I said that the case had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. I said this because Zimmerman and his attorneys were not arguing “Stand Your Ground.” Stand Your Ground has to do with Florida’s wild west approach to the duty to retreat. Florida extends the castle doctrine to public spaces. To take the legalese out of it, Stand Your Ground simply means that if you are attacked in public, you don’t have to run, even if you can safely and reasonably do so. You can stand and fight, meet force with force, and shoot to kill if you fear for your life or a serious injury.

But that wasn’t the case Zimmerman was making. He argued that he had no opportunity to reasonably and safely escape anyway, so it was a simple issue of self-defense. Stand Your Ground had nothing to do with it.

Anyway, I wrote that, and then an hour later, the judge gave jury instructions ripped right from the Stand Your Ground statute. And now the idiot juror B37 is going on television talking about how Zimmerman had a right to stand his ground, so what do I know? It’s my fault for even thinking for a second that the people of Florida could apply their own laws correctly.

So, I agreed to go onto HuffPost Live and debate whether Stand Your Ground laws are essentially a “license to kill.” Interestingly, one of the people on the panel was a Florida state representative who accepted the challenge of defending Florida’s statute….

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If you are black in America, you are not supposed to fight back. Ever. For any reason. Sorry.

If you are white, you can do whatever you want, and if you are Hispanic, you can defend yourself as long as you are defending yourself against a black man. But if you are black, you just need to sit there and take it. Or else you’ll get in trouble. You’ll get shot or arrested. The full force of the police state will be brought down upon you.

That’s the lesson from this weekend. George Zimmerman’s acquittal has gotten all the attention (and I’ve said all I need to say about that), but in New York City this weekend there was another story about the casual, every day, racist junk that black people have to deal with all the time. But this time the black guy defended himself and so, of course, the black guy got arrested…

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I discussed the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial with my mother, a 65-year-old white woman. She, unlike me, is politically and socially liberal. She was perplexed, though, by the media response to the verdict. Why the outrage?

What I explained to my mother was my best exercise in empathy, because I struggle to understand the outrage too.

If we were a black family, especially one living in the Deep South, this might look different to us, I reasoned. If she had been born black, when she was a little girl, white people wouldn’t feel the need to apologize for calling her a “n*gger child,” or telling her she couldn’t eat near them, or shuttling her off to an elementary school that was certainly separate but was only equal in theory. My mom would have grown up watching white police officers call her father “boy.” She would have had to observe my grandfather grow meek and obsequious when approached by a white man, especially one with a badge or a gun. He wouldn’t shrink into obeisance because he wasn’t strong and proud, or because he wasn’t law-abiding. He would do so because he couldn’t risk being perceived as “mouthy” or “uppity” by someone who could hurt him or his family for social transgressions as minimal as that….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “It Was Just Another Criminal Case: Why The Outrage Over George Zimmerman’s Acquittal?”

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