WILL Files Formal Civil Rights Complaint Against the American Bar Association and Institutions of Higher Education Across America for Discriminatory Practices


The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has filed a Title VI complaint against the American Bar Association (ABA) for several discriminatory programs, including its “Judicial Clerkship Program” and “Judicial Intern Opportunity Program,” which offer premier, exclusive opportunities to candidates based on race. The complaint also names three universities that have conspired with the ABA to run its clerkship program: South Texas College of Law Houston, the University of the Pacific, and Willamette University

WILL also filed a formal judicial misconduct complaint against Judge Leo I. Brisbois, a federal magistrate in the District of Minnesota, for his discriminatory practices as a key participant of the clerkship program. WILL is investigating whether to file additional complaints against other judges. 

The Quotes: WILL Associate Counsel, Skylar Croy, stated, “An organization that should be dedicated to ‘liberty and justice for all’ has continued to pursue programs that are discriminatory and unjust. It’s why WILL issued a clear warning to the ABA that its programs are illegal and, frankly, perpetuate racism and division in our country. Enough is enough. It’s why WILL has taken significant legal steps to resolve this injustice.”  

Additional Background: WILL notified the ABA and the judge last month that, in their current form, the ABA’s programs violate multiple federal, state, and local civil-rights laws. WILL promised that unless the ABA opened its programs to all races and stopped using race as a factor, WILL would pursue appropriate legal action.  

As a recipient of federal funds from multiple federal agencies, the ABA is subject to Title VI, which prohibits all discrimination “on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.” Yet numerous programs it administers or associate itself with do just that. More details on some of the programs are provided below. 


  • 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.” Law schools contract with the ABA to send students to a job fair. Law schools must agree to implement an illegal racial quota as shown below. 
  • The Judicial Intern Opportunity Programprovide[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. Law students must confirm that they read an “eligibility form,” which explains that the program is primarily for racial minorities and then must check a box explaining how they qualify for the program. 
  • The Diversity Clerkship Programprovides business law clerkship placements for four qualified diverse first or second year law students. .. .The .. . focus is on judicial clerkships .. . .” Clerks are paid $5,000. Law students must be “diverse” in one of five specific ways to qualify. One way is to be a “student of color.” 
  • The Legal Opportunity Scholarship provides $15,000 to ten to twenty “diverse law students” each year. Applicants “must be a member of an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic minority (e.g. Black/African-American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian/Pacific Islander).”
  • The Business Law Fellow Program “encourage[s] the participation of young lawyers, lawyers of color, LGBT lawyers and lawyers with disabilities in Business Law Section activities.”
  • The Diversity Fellows Program “is for young, barred lawyers (under 36 years old with five years or less of legal experience) who have an interest in international law and come from diverse backgrounds—including diverse races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities/disabilities. 

WILL’s Equality Under the Law Project: Since 2021, WILL attorneys have represented over 50 clients in 21 states as part of its Equality Under the Law Project. So far, WILL has won six times in court, and with many cases still pending. WILL was recently awarded over $350,000 by a federal court after it successfully sued the Biden Administration for race discrimination. As a part of this project, WILL also successfully negotiated a settlement agreement with the State Bar of Wisconsin that opened a similar “diversity” internship program to all law students. Find out more at www.defendequality.org. 

Read more: 

Title VI Complaint, Filed 5.21.24
Skylar Croy

Skylar Croy

Associate Counsel

Share This