Race Discrimination Discovered at American Bar Association


The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is warning the American Bar Association (ABA) over its race-based Judicial Clerkship Program and Internship Opportunity Program. WILL told the ABA in a letter that these programs violate multiple federal, state, and local civil rights laws, and harm innumerable students around the country. Unless the ABA opens their programs to all races and stops using race as a factor, WILL is planning appropriate legal action.

The Quotes: WILL Associate Counsel, Skylar Croy, stated, “When a bar association discriminates based on race, it sows more division in our country and violates the law in the process. WILL is demanding that the American Bar Association end this illegal and discriminatory practice holding all law students back.”

Additional Background: The ABA’s Judicial Clerkship Program “introduces law students from diverse backgrounds . . . to judges and law clerks.”  It also “informs and educates the students as to life-long benefits of a judicial clerkship,” and “encourages judges to consider students of color . . . for a judicial clerkship.” These activities occur annually at a conference sponsored by LexisNexis, which took place this year in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference is essentially a job fair at which judges from across the nation meet potential clerk applicants. Law schools contract with the ABA to send students to the conference. The ABA boasts on its website that “53 minority law students” participated at a past conference.

Number two imposes a racial quota: Each law school must send—and pay for— “four to six law students who are from underrepresented communities of color.” Racial quotas have been recognized as illegal for decades.

The Judicial Internship Opportunity Program “provide[s] opportunities to students who are members of racial and ethnic groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the profession” to work with a judge over the summer. These interns are paid $2,000 for their work. The eligibility is clearly stated below:

WILL’s Success Fighting Discriminatory Internships & Programs: Recently, WILL filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin State Bar for a similar reason. To prevent our lawsuit from going further, the Wisconsin State Bar stated in a settlement agreement that its Diversity Clerkship Program is open to all first-year law students attending either Marquette University Law School or the University of Wisconsin Law School who are in good standing. All promotional, explanatory, or other materials created by the State Bar must clearly state that such students are all eligible to participate in the Diversity Clerkship Program regardless of race.

The State Bar also agreed that it will not, and cannot state, suggest, or insinuate in its promotional materials that only law students from diverse backgrounds, with backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the legal field, or who have been socially disadvantaged are eligible. This was a major victory and as we stated then, would begin to create a precedent in all 50 states.

About WILL’s Efforts: This lawsuit is part of WILLs nationwide Equality under the law Project. Since 2021, WILL attorneys have represented 53 clients in 18 states. All clients are represented pro bono. Find out more at will-law.org/equality.

Letter, 4.24.24

Skylar Croy

Skylar Croy

Associate Counsel

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