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Lawsuit: Wisconsin State Bar’s ‘Diversity Clerkship Program’ Discriminates Based On Skin Color

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The State Bar of Wisconsin faces a new lawsuit this week over the association’s “diversity clerkship program,” which the complaint says prioritizes students “based on various protected traits, primarily race.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sued the bar association on Wednesday for administering the program, which it alleges is illegally discriminatory.

“When the government discriminates based on race, it sows more division in our country and violates the Constitution in the process,” said WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy. “WILL is standing up against discrimination and holding the State Bar accountable to the rights of its due-paying members.”

The Wisconsin nonprofit is suing on behalf of Daniel Suhr, a trial and appellate attorney in the state who is forced to pay dues as a member of the State Bar.

“Internships are competitive — as they should be,” Suhr said. “But when one group is given preferential treatment over the other to apply for these programs, the programs lose competitiveness and hurt all Americans.”

The lawsuit relies on the landmark Supreme Court decision handed down this summer that overturned race-based admissions programs commonly known as “affirmative action.” In Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. Harvard, the nine-justice panel voted 6-3, finding consideration of race in college admissions to be unconstitutional.

[RELATED: Ending Affirmative Action Won’t Stop The University System’s Racist Admissions Practices]

“The State Bar of Wisconsin, a creation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, administers and promotes a ‘Diversity Clerkship Program,’ which has doled out paid internship slots to 600 law students since its inception,” reads Wednesday’s lawsuit. “Affirmative action for student internships is just as unconstitutional as affirmative action for student admissions.”

The clerkship program is advertised on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s website as “a 10 week paid summer employment opportunity” for first-year law school students “with backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the legal field.”

Applicants must also apparently meet an ideological litmus test. “Successful applicants,” the program’s webpage reads, “demonstrate a commitment to diversity and a record of academic achievement.” Students who apply must write a personal statement declaring how they have been affected by diversity, contributed to diversity, or “hope[] to contribute to diversity in the future.”

The program is open to students who attend law schools at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin.

WILL contends that the State Bar of Wisconsin is violating the dues-paying plaintiff’s First Amendment right to free speech. The Wisconsin legal group cites the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Keller v. State Bar of California, “in which the United States Supreme Court held that an association like the Bar cannot compel an objecting member to fund activities that are not ‘germane’ to a constitutionally permissible justification for mandatory membership.”


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