Elimination of bias, MN style

I last spoke about Minnesota’s elimination of bias continuing legal education requirement for attorneys at the Federalist Society’s 2013 National Lawyers Convention. I called my talk “Bias in the air” and posted it on Power Line.

The elimination of bias CLE requirement was formally adopted by the Minnesota Supreme Court and is implemented by the court’s enforcers at the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education. To satisfy the elimination of bias CLE requirement, a course must be accredited by the board.

My eagle-eyed friend Peter Swanson alerts us to an unusual opportunity to fulfill the requirement at a course sponsored by the Hennepin County Bar Association this morning. It involves separation of attorneys based on the color of their skin. The HCBA course listing reads as follows (whole thing here):

Attorneys of Color PLUS: Maneuvering Barriers to the Successful Practice of Law
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

This CLE will present issues of attorneys of color who face additional barriers such as being female, mothers (parents), LGBTQI, immigrants or of different nationality, having a mental health/addiction/or other disability, etc. There will be two different types of lessons available, depending on the background of the CLE attendees. Those who are not attorneys of color will learn from the knowledge and personal experience of the panelists about the specific obstacles attorneys of color face in trying to fully participate in practicing law to reach the result of a satisfying career.

Peter himself comments with restraint in his post “Separate but equal continuing legal education.”

I would add that the sponsors of the course need a lesson in clear writing. I don’t know what “issues of attorneys of color” means, but I think I have a handle on “background.” From context I infer (along with Peter) that it is a euphemism for skin color, although it is not clear whether those who attend the program have the option of choosing their “lesson” without regard to the color of their skin. I infer from the use of the word “available” that they do, but that isn’t clear either given the statement that those who are not colored “will learn” what they learn in a different lesson.

Clarity has gone missing and probably not due to incompetence alone. Obfuscation has its purposes. The sponsors of this course should be ashamed. This course as offered is a disgrace that takes us back to the misbegotten origin of the requirement itself.

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