The American Bar Association has just announced that it has dropped a "diversity and inclusion" proposal after some prominent law professors and law schools warned that it ran afoul of federal law.
On Monday, the ABA revealed that it had decided to scrap a proposal that would have required law schools to "diversify" their faculties and student admissions to boost enrollment and representation from historically "underrepresented groups."
The measure, first proposed in May 2021, underwent three revisions before the ABA decided to eliminate it altogether. A February 2022 iteration of the proposal required ABA-accredited schools to make "the study of law and admission to the profession" accessible to "all persons, particularly members of underrepresented groups related to race and ethnicity." It also called for law schools to work toward building "[a]n inclusive and equitable environment" for all, irrespective of "race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, [or] military status."
It also required all ABA-accredited schools to submit "an annual assessment of the inclusivity and equity of a law school’s educational environment" or risk losing their accreditation.
Though 150 law school deans supported the measure, many law professors balked that it would require schools to violate many anti-discrimination laws at the state and federal level, including the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Others worried that the emphasis on racial and ethnic "diversity" would undermine other "underrepresented" identity groups, such as "LGBTQ+" and the disabled.
Though the ABA has opted to move on from the requirement for now, it has not ruled out revisiting it at a later date. As the Washington Free Beacon points out, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon reconsider the value of racial preferences and affirmative action in higher education with the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. Should SCOTUS rule against such racial preferences, the ABA may reconsider its own recent focus on racial "diversity and inclusion."
The ABA has already approved a measure to compel law schools to "provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism." It has also flirted with the idea of eliminating the LSAT as a requirement for admissions because the test is supposedly biased against minorities.