Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Black, White, and Red-Handed II

I know, I'm a troublemaker. Kathy Kersten of the Star Tribune picks up on the story of the exclusion of the Maslon Edelman law firm from Twin Cities Diversity in Practice. The rationale was that minority attorneys would not want to join a firm that fought affirmative action on behalf of a client. The objection to Maslon was raised by the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, who held a controversial "Cajun Shrimp Boil" in July.

Larry Purdy, a Maslon attorney who helped try the Michigan cases, shakes his head over the double standard at work here. "The idea that any group, particularly a group of lawyers, could be sponsoring an intentionally racially segregated event in 2006 is astonishing to me," he says.

Peter Swanson is a black Twin Cities attorney who was instrumental in bringing this sorry episode to light. He sees a larger problem with the two organizations' views on race.

"They seem to promote a stereotype that all members of certain racial groups think alike," he says. "Apparently, these organizations aren't interested in diversity. They are not interested in recruiting and retaining all minority lawyers -- just the ones with the proper attitudes."
As I stated in this post, the irony is that the Michigan Law School ruling (viewed as a victory for affirmative action supporters) was based, in part, on the notion that you need sufficient numbers of minorities in a law class to prove to the majority that minorities don't all think alike. Therefore, it follows that some minorities would be excited to work for Maslon because they would agree with the challenge to affirmative action.

Another irony is that one of the Maslon attorneys in the Michigan case (not Larry Purdy or Kirk Kolbo) represented the state bar association in a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court petition to require attorneys to take sensitivity training.

The Cajun Shrimp Boil homepage link has been removed from the MABL website, but the PDF file is still there as of this posting. There is a google cache and yahoo cache of the homepage link, as well.

Whew. I promise to return to light-hearted stuff soon. Right after Banned Books Week is over at the end of this month.

SwanBlog home.


Blogger Peter said...

An anonymous commenter has left the following on this and the previous post:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "9/06/2006 09:17:00 PM":

"[A] lawyer's decision to represent a client may commit that lawyer to zealously furthering the interests of one whom the lawyer or others in the community believe to be morally repugnant. For that reason, the question of whether to represent a particular client can present the lawyer with an important moral decision - a decision for which the lawyer can properly be held morally accountable, in the sense of being under a burden of public justification.

That would not be so if each lawyer were ethically bound to represent every client seeking the lawyer's services. If there were no choice, there would be no responsibility. Under both rules and practice, however, lawyers have always been free to choose whether to represent particular clients.* * * [Indeed,] the Comment to Rule 6.2 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct says * * * that a lawyer ordinarily is 'not obligated to accept a client whose character or cause the lawyer regards as repugnant."'

Morgan and Rotunda, Professional Responsibility, Problems and Materials, pg. 88-89 (Foundation Press, Eighth Ed., 2003) (quoting Professor Monroe Freedman).

ME: We all learn in law school about IRAC: Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. "Anonymous" just throws up the quote as if to say, "See?" I guess he is trying to say that a lawyer IS responsible for his clients because he has a general freedom to reject clients. No one is forced to represent a client, so we are correct to criticize the Maslon firm.

Without looking at the book, I have a hunch that there is more to the quote.

Even without a larger context to the quotation, "anonymous" misses some important points -- the clients were not personally reprehensible in the way that cross burners and rapists are. The cause was partially successful in that the undergraduate affirmative action policy was overturned. Being uncomfortable with the more blatant quotas of some affirmative action programs is a mainstream, bi-partisan idea. Remember Pres. Clinton's "mend it, don't end it"?

Michigan is likely to pass a referendum ending affirmative action, as California has already done. Even if the wording changes are enough to defeat the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, it is still a legitimate mainstream idea.

Finally, the FIRM of Maslon Edelman has an open pro bono policy, as long as there is not a conflict of interest. So it is wrong to punish the firm.

September 07, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I have another (the same?) anonymous commenter. According to the comment, if I post it, I have redeeming qualities. I hope the person will identify him/herself. I am reluctant to post it anonymously.

Please identify yourself. My redeeming qualities depend on it.

September 08, 2006 12:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home