Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cajun, Controversial, and Comments

In this post, I dissected the first paragraph of an anonymous comment I received. The topic is a social event for the legal community apparently restricted to minorities only. The second paragraph deals with the exclusion of a law firm from Twin Cities Diversity in Practice because three of its lawyers represented the plaintiffs in a challenge to affirmative action:

Obviously, you do not see the irony that an organization that works to end affirmative action actually wants to join an organization that promotes affirmative action. Perhaps you are not curious about the motives, but those of us who work tirelessly to promote minority recruitment and retention are puzzled by Maslon's change of heart. Mr. Purdy has on numerous occasions stated that he personally wants to work to abolish affirmative action. He made these inflammatory statements at a Hennepin County Bar Association CLE. He has never once separated himself from Maslon when making these statements, and when asked, Maslon has not separated itself from these statements either.

Me: In November, voters in Michigan will go to the polls and decide whether state government agencies will be allowed to use affirmative action. This would include state colleges and universities, essentially reversing the policy that was challenged in the recent Supreme Court lawsuit. The referendum may very well win. But let us assume that it is roundly defeated, say 80% against and 20% in favor. Does that mean that it is not a legitimate position to be opposed to affirmative action? The real vote totals will be much closer than that. Affirmative action proponents have worked hard to keep it off the ballot, suggesting that they are afraid it might win. But win or lose, being against affirmative action is a mainstream position. It is troubling that there are prominent lawyers who characterize honest disagreement as "inflammatory."

Even if the three lawyers who took on the litigation are the only people at Maslon Edelman to oppose affirmative action, the firm would be on shaky legal ground to try to distance themselves from their clients' aims. If the plaintiffs in the affirmative action cases hear Maslon attorneys attacking their goals, they will wonder whose side the firm is on. The best (and perhaps only) course of action is to keep quiet if a lawyer disagrees with a particular client that his firm represents.

Whether there is an inconsistency between Maslon's actions in the Michigan cases and its desire to join a minority recruiting consortium depends on one's perspective. Opponents of affirmative action may view recruiting initiatives such as Twin Cities Diversity in Practice as the perfect way to ensure equal opportunity, without resorting to quotas. And it is interesting for the TCDIP folks to talk about irony, given their position on the "minorities only" shrimp boil.

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