“Excluding students from these esteemed fellowships because they are the wrong race is unfair, polarizing and illegal. Law firms that have racially-exclusive programs should immediately make them available to all applicants, regardless of their race.”
Edward Blum, the conservative activist who played a pivotal role in the battle to take down Affirmative Action, is now suing two major law firms for alleged discrimination in the awarding of diversity fellowships.
The social justice politics of the left have found their way into the legal profession, and it’s great that Blum is using his momentum to go after this.
The Washington Examiner reports:
Conservative activist sues law firms for ‘racially discriminating’ against fellowship candidates
A conservative activist who scored a major victory this summer when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of ending race-conscious admissions policies at colleges and universities is now working to dismantle race-based preferences in corporate America.
Edward Blum filed two lawsuits on Tuesday through his nonprofit organization American Alliance for Equal Rights, challenging the awarding system of diversity fellowships in the international law firms Perkins Coie and Morrison and Foerster.
One of the lawsuits filed in the Southern District of Florida in Miami against Morrison claimed the firm has “been racially discriminating against future lawyers for more than a decade,” accusing the decade-old Keith Wetmore 1L Fellowship for Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion program of excluding “certain applicants based on their skin color.” The fellowships are offered to first-year law students through Morrison and Foerster’s Miami office and several other locations, and 136 fellowships have been awarded since 2012. The Morrison and Foerster fellowship consists of a paid summer associate position and a $50,000 stipend.
The other lawsuit, launched against the Seattle-based firm Perkins Coie, claimed its fellowship is in violation of the Civil Rights Act by being exclusive to law students of color, those who identify with the LGBT community, and students with disabilities. The fellowship, offered to first-year law students, gives recipients a $15,000 academic scholarship and a paid associate position.
Reuters has more on this:
The federal lawsuits accused both law firms of unlawfully discriminating against white candidates by limiting which law students could be considered for paid fellowships designed in part to help support the recruitment of people of color.
“Excluding students from these esteemed fellowships because they are the wrong race is unfair, polarizing and illegal,” Blum, who is white, said in a statement.
A Perkins Coie spokesperson in a statement said it would defend itself, saying its commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession was “steadfast.” Morrison & Foerster did not respond to requests for comment…
Perkins Coie, founded in Seattle, offers “diversity fellowships” that provide stipends of $15,000 to $25,000 and paid positions as summer associates, a position that at major law firms can lead to full-time jobs with six-figure salaries.
Applicants must belong to “a group historically underrepresented in the legal profession, including students of color, students who identify as LGBTQ+, and students with disabilities,” according to Perkins Coie, which employs more than 1,200 lawyers in the United States and Asia.
Morrison & Foerster, a corporate law firm founded in San Francisco that has more than 1,000 lawyers worldwide, has a similar program that is open to applicants who are Black, Hispanic, Native American or members of the LGBT community.
The American Alliance for Equal Rights also put out a press release:
American Alliance for Equal Rights Files Lawsuit Against Perkins Coie LLP and Morrison & Foerster LLP Alleging Discriminatory Diversity Fellowships
Regarding Perkins Coie, AAFER alleges that the “diversity fellowships” for first year (1L) and second year (2L) law students exclude certain applicants based on their race. These fellowships offer recipients a six-figure job that include five-figure stipends. However, applicants do not qualify unless they are “students of color,” “students who identify as LGBTQ+,” or “students with disabilities.” This means that between two heterosexual, nondisabled applicants, one black or Hispanic, and the other one who white, the latter cannot apply based solely on his race.
Regarding Morrison & Foerster, AAFER alleges that the firm’s Keith Wetmore 1L Fellowship for Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion bans certain applicants based on their race. Applicants to this lucrative fellowship do not qualify to participate unless they are “African American/Black, Latinx [sic], Native Americans/Native Alaskans, and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The American Alliance for Equal Rights alleges that these exclusionary policies violate the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981, because Perkins Coie and Morrison & Foerster are expressly refusing to contract with certain applicants based on their race and ethnicity.
The lawsuit against Perkins Coie was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The lawsuit against Morrison & Foerster was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The Alliance has petitioned the courts to enter a judgement in its favor and declare that these programs violate §1981 and to bar both firms from considering race as a factor when selecting fellows.
Edward Blum, president of the American Alliance for Equal Rights said, “Excluding students from these esteemed fellowships because they are the wrong race is unfair, polarizing and illegal. Law firms that have racially-exclusive programs should immediately make them available to all applicants, regardless of their race.”
You would think that law firms would know better.
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