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Republican AGs warn law firms on race-based hiring practices after Supreme Court ruling on colleges

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Five Republican attorneys general penned a letter this week to the nation’s top 100 law firms, warning them against race-based employment and contracting practices in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that upended affirmative action.

The letter noted that there have been numerous reports of law practices hiring or promoting racial minority candidates not strictly on merit but to meet diversity quotas.

Led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the group of state legal officials argued that even private entities are now required to “refrain from discriminating on the basis of race” even if it justified “under the label of ‘diversity, equity and inclusion,’” in light of the Supreme Court‘s ruling.



“Put simply, differential treatment based on race and skin color, even for purportedly ‘benign’ purposes, is unlawful, divisive, and exposes your firm to serious legal consequences, including potentially fines, damages and injunctive relief,” the nine-page Aug. 29 letter read.

“We strongly advise you to immediately terminate any unlawful race-based quotas or preferences that your firm has adopted for its employment and contracting practices,” the letter reads. “If you choose not to do so, know that you will be held accountable — sooner rather than later — for treating individuals differently because of the color of their skin,” the letter went on.

In addition to Mr. Knudsen, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron signed the letter.

The move comes days after the conservative legal activist who led the legal battle to end racial affirmative action in college admissions sued two law firms over diversity practices in their fellowship programs.

Edward Blum, who leads the American Alliance for Equal Rights, filed two lawsuits earlier this month: one in the Southern District of Florida against Morrison & Foerster LLP and another in the Northern District of Texas against Perkins Coie LLP. Mr. Blum argues that such programs discriminate unfairly against white and Asian-American candidates.

He said the legal firms are violating the law by using skin color as a factor in awarding highly coveted fellowships to the law school students they hire.

Both lawsuits note that racial discrimination is never lawful. The Supreme Court ruled in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard this year that colleges can’t use race as part of admissions criteria, and Mr. Blum says that should apply to law firm fellowship programs as well.

Race-conscious affirmative action programs violate the Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment, the Supreme Court ruled in June in a pair of monumental decisions striking down policies that major colleges and universities used to add more Black and Hispanic students to their ranks.

The ruling doesn’t ban the mention of race in applications or block a school from evaluating a candidate’s experiences with race, either as a personal hurdle or inspiration, as part of an admissions decision.

The court said schools can no longer defend policies that claim to try to find a predetermined overall racial mix of students. Such policies reduce would-be students to the color of their skin, the justices said in a 6-3 ruling striking down affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

The laws at issue in the high court cases involved the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Mr. Blum’s lawsuits against the legal firms point to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which bars racial discrimination for contracts.

— Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.



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