WILL Responds to Wisconsin State Bar’s New Calls for Racial Discrimination, Media Intimidation

The News: Today, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is responding to the Wisconsin State Bar’s latest media and public relations efforts regarding a settlement reached by the Bar and WILL last week. Since that announcement on Thursday, April 4, the Bar has insisted that their program remains “unchanged.” Going even further, the Bar stated on Monday, April 8 that race will remain a factor in the program, contradicting the settlement agreement and the law.   Additionally, WILL has learned that the Bar attempted to intimidate a member of the media for reporting WILL’s perspective on the settlement, which raises serious First Amendment questions.   

The Quotes: Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, stated, “It is impermissible and, frankly, offensive to equate race with an individual’s characteristics.  Yet, in a Monday morning press release, the Bar has all but announced its intent to do just that. This is not only a breach of the settlement agreement but illegal. If that is in fact the case, we are going to hold them accountable.”  

Esenberg continued, “There’s also an effort to intimidate and pressure media outlets, which we wanted to bring to the Bar’s attention. The State Bar is a state actor, funded in part by mandatory membership dues. It was created and is regulated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and is placed in a privileged position. As a matter of civility – and perhaps even law – it shouldn’t be intimidating legal or media publications.” 

Figure 1 

The media intimidation came to our attention on Friday. The Wisconsin Law Journal published an article titled, “WILL: State Bar of Wisconsin to end DEI practices; State Bar: No changes other than diversity definition.” The managing editor, Steve Schuster, engaged in a fact-finding mission with both the State Bar and WILL. In those conversations we were notified that the reporter “was scolded by the State Bar” for publishing WILL’s position, as articulated in its press release. He also said, “The State Bar . . . literally demanded we take down the story last night.” The First Amendment demands much more. If we are to have a free press, as guaranteed by the Constitution, then State Bar employees may not bully and intimidate reporters, as they have here.  

WILL Letter, 4.9.24 

Rick Esenberg

Rick Esenberg

President and General Counsel

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