Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fame, 15 Minutes, and Postscript

Here I thought I had finished the "shrimp boil" controversy with this post. The story was all about how a consortium of law firms encouraging minority recruitment, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, was dragging its feet on allowing the Maslon Edelman firm to join. Three of Maslon's lawyers had represented plaintiffs in a challenge to the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies. Around the same time, TCDIP held an "authentic Cajun shrimp boil" for which the invitation limited attendance to minority law students and minority attorneys.

The Minnesota Lawyer decided to keep the issue going with a story about the former head of TCDIP:

Judge Leung resigns from board of Twin Cities diversity group
Maslon firm's application to join remains in limbo.
By Barbara L. Jones | October 23, 2006

Hennepin County District Court Judge Tony Leung has resigned his post as chair of the board of a local nonprofit group promoting the recruitment and employment of attorneys of color in the Twin Cities.

The Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) group — which is composed of 19 local law firms and nine other businesses — came under media scrutiny when Minnesota Lawyer broke the story that the group had tabled an application for membership by Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand, the 13th biggest law firm in the state. The decision was made after the Minnesota Black Lawyers Association expressed concerns about admitting Maslon because of the firm's role in representing white plaintiffs in a challenge to the University of Michigan's use of affirmative action in its admissions policies. (See, "The Diversity Divide," in the Aug. 28, 2006, issue of Minnesota Lawyer.)

Following up on the Maslon story, attorney Peter Swanson reported on his blog that last July TCDIP sponsored an "authentic Cajun shrimp boil" that was exclusively for minority lawyers and minority law students.

Both of TCDIP's actions proved highly controversial and drew some negative press coverage. Critics expressed outrage at the treatment of Maslon and at the idea of sponsoring an event to which whites were not invited. TCDIP supporters countered that the actions were justified and in the best interests of the group's mission of attracting lawyers and law students of color to Minnesota.

In a recent interview with Minnesota Lawyer, Leung said that he had told his fellow board members in a memo that he had decided to step down after examining recent events. Leung also told the board, "Although the torch has passed, I remain steadfastly supportive of the board's mission."

Leung declined to elaborate on his statements or provide the memo to Minnesota Lawyer. He did say that his decision to leave the board was made in the "context" of articles that had been written about TCDIP in Minnesota Lawyer and other publications.

* * *

[article continues with stuff about the Maslon application]

* * *

Leung hopes that the good work of TCDIP won't get overlooked.

"I hope there's room to write about some good things," the judge told Minnesota Lawyer. "We've put together a unique collaboration. We've done some unique things to promote the Twin Cities generally."

Me: Here's an idea for getting the media to write some good things about your organization -- Stop demonizing lawyers for representing unpopular clients and stop having racially exclusive events!


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