Conservatives question ABA’s role in promoting diversity in law schools

American Bar Association offices in Washington, DC REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Federalist Society panel raises questions about ABA law school oversight
  • Some said the ABA went too far in requiring bias training and diversity and inclusion mandates

(Reuters) – Recent decisions by the American Bar Association to require bias training for law students and to strengthen law school diversity and inclusion rules have unsettled some conservative lawyers who say the he accreditation body has exceeded its role and imposes a specific ideology on future lawyers. .

“In my view, the ABA has taken a step out of its lane,” Cornell law professor and conservative legal blogger William Jacobson said during a panel discussion Tuesday on the oversight of the law school of the University. ABA. The panel was part of the Federalist Society’s Tenth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference in Washington, D.C.

Jacobson said the ABA should not impose educational mandates in the “highly contested” area of ​​diversity and bias, and that the changes represent a further narrowing of acceptable discourse on campus.

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The ABA in February passed a requirement that law schools provide training on bias, racism and cross-cultural skills when students begin legal education and at least once more before graduation. The change came after 150 law deans called for it in June 2020, but it faced opposition from a wide range of legal scholars, some of whom said it encroaches on autonomy law faculties.

The ABA is also set to adopt a revised Diversity and Inclusion Standard that expands existing rules relating to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups among students, faculty and staff, among other inclusion requirements. . Schools would be subject to an annual assessment of the inclusiveness of their “educational environment” under the proposal.

Officials of the ABA’s Legal Education and Bar Admissions Section — which operates independently of the larger organization — have long argued that schools have wide latitude to meet new requirements.

Scott Bales, former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and outgoing chair of the ABA’s legal education council, told Federalist Society attendees that the proposed changes to the diversity and inclusion standards include no quotas and will not require “racial racism”. balancing.”

“In my opinion, this is not a radical proposal, although it is not surprising in the current context that it has generated a lot of controversy,” Bales said during the panel, adding that the changes are intended to ensure that new lawyers have the skills required to be successful in practice.

A spokesperson for the ABA’s Legal Education Section said Thursday that Bales’ comments reflect the group’s position on the issue.

Panel moderator Trevor McFadden, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said bias and diversity and inclusion measures have led to broader questions about the ABA’s involvement with faculties. by right.

“These developments have naturally sparked interest in the uniquely powerful role the ABA plays in the American legal profession,” he said.

Read more:

U.S. law students to receive anti-bias training after ABA adopts new rule

ABA revises diversity policy for attorney education programs after setback

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Jon J. Epps