Diversity and Justice at the Supreme Court
by Frank H. Wu
Letter from the Chair, José E. Gaitán
Hopwood v. State of Texas: Retreat from the Supreme Court Ruling in Bakke
by Leo J. Jordan
Valuing Diversity - A Given?
by Keith Earley
Affirmative Action: Define "Qualifications" from Diverse Viewpoints
by Dale F. Rubin
1999 Spirit of Excellence Awards
by Charisse R. Lillie
1999 Annual Meeting Schedule
An open letter to Minority Counsel Program supporters
In New York City, demonstrators have protested recent incidents of police brutality directed at young African American males. These demonstrations were triggered when a black man was killed after being shot nineteen times by police officers as he sat behind the wheel of a parked vehicle. Reported incidents of police brutality against persons of color have become commonplace in other large metropolitan cities, as well.
At the same time of rising racial tensions in America, the opponents of affirmative action seek to undo the little progress achieved in education. Under the guise of "equal protection," critics of affirmative action have mobilized to enact such legislative initiatives as California’s Proposition 209, and Washington Initiative 200. They now have their sights set on revamping the university admissions rules in the State of Michigan. As a result, minority enrollment in prestigious California universities has plummeted. The University of California at Berkley, Boalt Hall Law School, recently admitted only one African American to its entering first-year class. In some respects, it appears as if the civil rights movement has come full circle. Once again, ethnic minorities are being denied a first-class public education.
Unfortunately, the legal profession has been slow and timid in responding to the issues of injustice. While the percentage of persons of color continues to rise (more than 25 percent of Americans are ethnic minorities), the ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession in the Miles to Go report con-firmed that the legal profession remains a predominantly white profession. Approximately 92.5 percent of our nation’s lawyers are white.
Black defendants continue to be tried in courts where they are the only person of color in the courtroom. The same remains true of Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians. This dichotomy creates an appearance of injustice and unfairness. This point is illustrated by a story that Judge Bernice Donald, former chair of the Commission on Minorities, is fond of telling. Judge Donald relates the case of a white criminal defendant who entered a United States district courtroom in Tennessee where she presided. She described the concern etched on the defendant’s face as he looked around the courtroom to find that he was the only European American in the courtroom.
Lawyers of color continue to be grossly underrepresented in all segments of our profession. Moreover, the recent anti-affirmative action initiatives are exacerbating the problem. With a decline in minority enrollment in law schools such as Boalt Hall, the pipeline is getting smaller and smaller. As a result, the number of minority law school graduates is expected to decrease for the foreseeable future.
This year, ABA President Philip S. Anderson has made the delivery of color-blind justice a priority for his tenure in office. ABA President-Elect William G. Paul has declared that during his administration, he will focus on the issue of minority underrepresentation within the legal profession. These two leaders should be applauded for their efforts and leadership.
With continued strong leadership from the ABA, the confidence of ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system can be restored and enhanced. This will require in the short term that affirmative steps be taken to ensure the inclusiveness of American colleges and law schools. At the same time, the minority community can-not continue to look to others to make justice a reality for them. Minority lawyers must rise to the challenge. It is ultimately our responsibility to make the legal profession more inclusive and responsive to our needs. I look forward to working with you to that end.
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