Biden Administration Ordered to Pay WILL’s Attorney Fees Following MBDA Win

Rare win highlights the significant costs required to challenge unconstitutional government programs 

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) was awarded over $350,000 by a federal court after it successfully sued the Biden Administration for race discrimination. The order comes on the heels of the court’s decision last month, which held that the federally run Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) unconstitutionally discriminated against small business owners based on race.  

WILL’s clients receive free legal representation thanks to the generosity of our donors. WILL does not accept government grants or other kinds of public contributions that could influence the litigation we choose to pursue or the outcomes of our research. Obtaining a fee award in a case such as this is exceedingly rare because of strict limitations in federal law. WILL’s win highlights the Biden Administration’s significant overreach and the strength of the case brought by WILL attorneys. 

The Quotes: WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg stated, “WILL’s legal work doesn’t come free, and our dedicated lawyers earn less than they could elsewhere because of their passion for the mission. While we are mostly donor-funded, this award properly compensates us for the work we do, and lets the government know that it ought not discriminate based on race.”   

WILL Deputy Counsel, Dan Lennington, stated, “Winning these legal fees will help us do even more work to uphold the Constitution and upend racist DEI programs across the country. While we hope that this judgment serves as a deterrent against unconstitutional race discrimination, we are not taking our foot off the gas. In fact, we are just getting started.”  

Additional Background: In a recent ruling, a federal judge ruled that the Biden Administration is now prohibited from using the MBDA to discriminate against businesses based on race. In the Court’s words, MBDA “can still operate its Business Centers, it must simply do so without vetting applicants based on race.”  

In awarding fees, U.S. District Judge, Mark T. Pittman, specifically noted WILL’s national reputation and skill of its attorneys, “Here, the skills and well-earned reputation of the Plaintiffs’ lawyers speak for themselves. Indeed, Plaintiffs’ lawyers have crafted a practice specializing in civil rights cases just like this.” 

The judge believed, like we did, that the federal government should have changed this program after Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (“SFFA”). He wrote that SFFA “should have been the MBDA’s sign to press pause on its presumption and consider alternative routes forward.”  But the Administration plowed ahead “in disregard of binding Supreme Court precedent,” the judge wrote. That legal precedent will continue to drive our work in this area.  


Rick Esenberg

Rick Esenberg

President and General Counsel

Dan Lennington

Dan Lennington

Deputy Counsel

Cara Tolliver

Cara Tolliver

Associate Counsel

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