Coalition of Affinity Bars Stand in Unity for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Continuing Legal Education

For Immediate Release: 
Date: July 7, 2021

Contact: Edgar Chen, Policy Director

WASHINGTON- 
The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) – the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) – together with the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association, and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA-North America) stand united in their support of efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in continuing legal education (CLE) and in opposition to the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and amendments to the Florida Bar Rules on diversity requirements for CLE programming. As national organizations dedicated to advancing equality and opportunity for underrepresented and historically marginalized members of the legal profession, diversity, equity, and inclusion are of paramount importance to our communities. Diversity on CLE panels benefits both panelists who are recognized for their expertise, as well as audience members who can be inspired by seeing those with similar backgrounds or experiences serving as role models and educators in the legal profession. Moreover, CLE participants may well benefit from hearing from panelists who bring unique and diverse perspectives that they may not have been exposed to previously.

“The objective of the ABA policy and the Florida CLE Diversity Policy is not to exclude anyone, but to ensure inclusion,” argued CK Hoffler, a Florida Bar member and President of the NBA in the NBA’s submission to the Supreme Court. “No one is displaced nor denied an opportunity to participate because of these new policies. African-African attorneys founded the NBA, due in large part because of exclusion. Today, there remains a need to ensure the inclusion of African American attorneys in the legal field and include African American attorneys in the discussion of legal issues.”

“As bar associations dedicated to the advancement of equality and opportunity for APA attorneys, NAPABA and its Florida affiliates believe it is imperative to feature a diverse range of views, experiences and backgrounds in CLE programs in order to address the critical gaps in mentors, connections and role models that are so important for career advancement,” wrote A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA in a joint filing before the Court submitted with Florida-based affiliates. “Panelists benefit from recognition as experts which burnishes their credentials, and audience members can be inspired by witnessing those with similar backgrounds or experiences serving as role models and educators in the profession.”

“Diversity is vital to ensuring equal justice under the law and to public confidence in our legal system,” said Elia Diaz-Yaeger, HNBA National President. “If we want to move in the right direction, we must work to ensure a greater diversity across our profession that is representative of the people and communities we represent. That kind of positive change does not happen on its own; it requires bold action and leadership. We urge the Court to clarify its order to permit inclusive diversity policies for CLE courses.”

“In Florida, with a Native American population of over 125,000 and two federally recognized tribes, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people are grossly underrepresented in the legal profession and strikingly so in the judiciary,” said Colleen Lamarre, President of the National Native American Bar Association. “The ABA policy and the Florida Bar Business Law Section’s CLE Diversity Policy are aimed at ensuring that CLE programing reflects the local population and advances the voices of historically marginalized groups. Representation and visibility through the continuing legal education process is critical to guaranteeing that the voices of indigenous people are heard and that the local and national attorney population, the pipeline of future attorneys, and our clients benefit and learn from interactions with Native American attorneys and their professional and cultural experiences.”

“Ensuring that diverse points of view are recognized and promoted throughout the legal profession is a primary goal of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association,” said Lousene Hoppe, LGBTQ+ Bar Association President. “We support the efforts of the ABA and the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion on CLE panels, and we oppose the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and amendments to the Florida Bar Rules on diversity requirements for CLE programming.”

“SABA North America is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entire legal profession in North America,” said Samir Mehta, President of SABA North America. “We are committed to seeing this diversity reflected through lawyers of all backgrounds and identities. In Florida, there is only one Asian Pacific American on the federal bench in the entire state and such jurists represent less than one percent of state court judges there. This level of underrepresentation is unacceptable and we look forward to seeing more judges from all marginalized and historically underrepresented backgrounds added, including Asian American and South Asian American judges. In the arena of continuing legal education, we hope that the Florida Supreme Court will recognize that inclusion of different viewpoints will serve as an inspiration for the entire bar. We also hope this will prove that historically underrepresented or marginalized communities are not only welcome, but have much to contribute to our common goal of advancing justice.”

With the stated goals to eliminate bias, increase diversity, and implement efforts aimed at recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys, the Business Law Section (BLS) of the Florida Bar set forth a policy preference whereby the BLS would only sponsor, co-sponsor, or seek accreditation for any CLE program that had minimum numbers of diverse panelists, although the policy also had built in flexibility allowing for exemptions in the event that, after a diligent search, diverse panelists could not participate. In April, on its motion, the Florida Supreme Court struck down this policy characterizing it as “tainted by…discrimination,” and analogizing it to university admissions cases where the Supreme Court of the United States prohibited quotas based on race, even though the policy does not exclude or foreclose the participation of any panelist on a CLE program based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other characteristic. The Florida Supreme Court then re-wrote the Florida Bar rules to prohibit the approval of any CLE programs that use quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation of course faculty or participants. The ruling means that licensed Floridian attorneys would be banned from receiving CLE credit for attending an ABA-sponsored CLE program, as the ABA has a similar diversity policy.

For more information please contact:
HNBA Contact: Daniel Herrera
NAPABA Contact: Edgar Chen 
NBA Contact: Wanda Flowers
NNABA Contact: Colleen Lamarre 
LGBTQ+ Bar Contact: D’Arcy Kemnitz 
SABA-NA Contact: Jasmine Singh 

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The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA). The HNBA is an incorporated, nonprofit, nonpartisan, national membership organization that represents the interests of more than 67,000 Hispanic legal professionals and as well as the close to 13 percent of law students enrolled in ABA accredited law schools in the United States and its territories. We are committed to advocacy on issues of importance to the 61 million people of Hispanic heritage living in the U.S. From the days of its founding three decades ago, the HNBA has acted as a force for positive change within the legal profession. It does so by encouraging Hispanic students to choose a career in the law and by prompting their advancement within the profession once they graduate and start practicing. Through a combination of issue advocacy, programmatic activities, networking events and educational conferences, the HNBA has helped generations of lawyers succeed. For more information about HNBA, visit www.hnba.com.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 60,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession. For additional information about NAPABA, visit www.napaba.org.

Founded in 1925, the NBA is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of minority attorneys and judges. It represents approximately 66,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students and has over 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. The organization seeks to advance the science of jurisprudence, preserve the independence of the judiciary and to uphold the honor and integrity of the legal profession. For additional information about the National Bar Association, visit www.nationalbar.org.

Founded in 1973, the NNABA serves as the national association for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NNABA strives for justice and effective legal representation for all American indigenous peoples; fosters the development of Native American lawyers and judges; and addresses social, cultural and legal issues affecting American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. For additional information about NNABA, visit www.nativeamericanbar.org.

The National LGBTQ+ Bar was founded over thirty years ago by a small group of family law practitioners at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In 1987, the idea of creating a gay and lesbian bar association was formally introduced at the Lesbian & Gay March on Washington. The first Lavender Law® Conference took place the following year at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco. In 1989, at the American Bar Association’s Mid-Year meeting, bylaws were presented, and a nonprofit board of directors was formalized. At the second board meeting in 1989 in Boston, the LGBT Bar, then known as the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association (NLGLA), had 293 paid members, and initiated a campaign to ask the ABA to include protection based on sexual orientation to its revision of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct for Judges. In 1992, the LGBT Bar became an official affiliate of the American Bar Association and it now works closely with the ABA’s Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities and its Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. For more information about the LGBTQ+ Bar, visit www.lgbtbar.org.

SABA North America was founded in 2002 to strengthen the rapidly growing South Asian legal community with a recognized and trusted forum for professional growth and development, and promotes the civil rights and access to justice for the South Asian community. With 29 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, SABA attorneys work in all areas of the law, including at large law firms, as in-house counsel, government attorneys, and solo practitioners. SABA hosts an Annual Conference, annual Lobby Day, and numerous other successful programs throughout the year. For more information about SABA North America, visit www.sabanorthamerica.com.

NAPABA Organizational Statement: Coalition of Bar Associations of Color Urges State Bars to Enact Alternative Licensing Measures Amid COVID-19

For Immediate Release:
Date: August 19, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON, DC — The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) issued the following statement in response to several proposals calling for alternatives to the traditional in-person bar examination used to license new attorneys as a direct response to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges to just about every aspect of how we conduct our lives. As lawyers, it is our duty to meet these extraordinary circumstances with grace and swiftness, and to adapt as necessary to ensure continued access to justice and protection of the rule of law. In this spirit, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color supports ABA Resolution 10G strongly urging all state bars to cancel in-person or potentially vulnerable online administrations of the bar exam and consider adopting alternative methods of licensing new attorneys until a safe and secure method of administering a bar exam is available. This will protect the future of the legal profession and ultimately, our society.

Protection of the public in the administration of justice should remain the top priority of state bars. However, during the ongoing pandemic, traditional methods of testing, like large in-person exams, pose tremendous health risks to test takers and those around them and in many instances would violate government-issued restrictions to large gatherings.

Although we commend the states that opted to cancel in-person examinations in favor of online proctored exams, this method has met significant challenges in its administration. These challenges have included fairness, privacy, and technology concerns with the most recent example being the Florida bar. In Florida, bar examinees were informed of the cancellation of the online exam two days before its scheduled date due to numerous issues with the online proctoring system. No official new date or method of testing has been offered. The Michigan online bar exam system crashed during the examination. The State of Indiana encountered similar technology issues when the program was being tested, and they changed to an open book exam allowing answers to be emailed. The current infrastructure for online testing, which presents significant security concerns and glitches, is simply not workable for an exam of this magnitude and import.

As leaders of the Bar Associations of Color we are particularly concerned with the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color and more specifically bar examinees of color. As noted in the report accompanying ABA Resolution 10G on this issue, a recent survey showed “a majority of bar applicants do not believe they have reliable internet access, and that white applicants are about 71 percent more likely to have such access when compared to black applicants.” The same survey noted that the majority of bar examinees “do not have access to a quiet space to take a remote bar examination, with white applicants again being substantially more likely to have access to a quiet place than an applicant of color.” People of color and non-traditional students, who have already faced and conquered institutional challenges to complete their legal education, will face additional barriers in the event of additional delays.

Further delays in licensing attorneys are unfair, placing the careers of thousands of attorneys in limbo. Instead, flexibility from state bars is of paramount importance. Adopting alternatives like open book examinations, extended CLE, a diploma privilege, or a Certified Legal Intern program that leads to a provisional license and then to full licensing within 3-6 months, is the most efficient way to adequately safeguard the futures of all bar examinees and the legal profession as a whole.

Additionally, the delays in testing have further exacerbated the stressful circumstances experienced by bar examinees. Graduates have been preparing since May for one of the most important examinations of their careers. To do so, they have sacrificed their income and time for an extended period. Many are facing severe financial difficulties, have no health insurance, and they are competing for jobs in one of toughest job markets in years. Further delays in licensing will disrupt employment plans and leave thousands of graduates with no way of supporting themselves or their families in a moment of global crisis.

Bar examinees have demonstrated their ardent commitment to the legal profession through their resiliency in the last months. The protection of the public in the administration of justice should be extended to bar examinees by decisive action from the state bars that they will serve in their long and successful careers. We call on state bars to consider the options set forth in ABA Resolution 10G that are most protective of bar examinees, their careers, their families, and the legal profession. Options include but are not limited to allowing diploma privileges, administration of remote open book examinations, and creation or expansion of certified legal intern programs leading directly to licensure, a form of diploma privilege.

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The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).

NAPABA Supports Call for Inclusion of Native American Women in Law School Survey Study

In response to the exclusion of Native American women law students in the Center for Women in Law and the NALP Foundation’s study, “Women of Color – A Study of Law Student Experiences,” NAPABA urges the inclusion of Native American women. 

NAPABA supports the National Native American Bar Association’s call to include Native American Women in the Center for Women in Law and the NALP Foundation “Women of Color – A Study of Law Student Experiences.” While NAPABA believes the omission was unintentional, it is important when addressing the experiences of communities of color that efforts are made to ensure that the final study is inclusive of all communities. As an organization that represents the interests of Asian Pacific American attorneys, NAPABA is too familiar with the frustration of being excluded or lumped into an “Other” category. Within NAPABA itself, there is a concrete effort to be representative of our diverse Asian Pacific American community.

NAPABA strongly advocates that all studies of the legal profession ensure that Native Americans are included when issuing these important and necessary studies.

National Bar Associations Denounce Rising Anti-Asian Hate Related to the Coronavirus

Seven national bar associations today released a joint statement denouncing the rising number of incidents involving anti-Asian discrimination and racist remarks related to the coronavirus and COVID-19.

Calling for unity in these challenging times are the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the American Bar Association (ABA), the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), the National LGBT Bar (LGBT Bar), the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA North America).

“Unfortunately, the emergence of the coronavirus has led to an increase in acts of hate and discrimination targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The legal community stands united against hate. The current situation calls for unity and support—not acts of division and words that sow fear,” said NAPABA President Bonnie Lee Wolf.

The FBI has warned about a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes related to the coronavirus. Numerous community organizations have documented that acts of discrimination and bias are increasing, including incidents involving stereotypes and xenophobic language.

President Wolf continued, “Thank you to our sister bars who issued their own messages of support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community when they saw these acts of hate and discrimination on the rise. A special thank-you to ABA President Judy Perry Martinez, HNBA President Irene Oria, NAWL Executive Director Karen Richardson, LGBT Bar President Wesley Bizzell, NNABA President Robert Saunooke, and SABA North America President Aneesh Mehta for joining me in the video statement to launch this campaign. We encourage other bar associations, law firms, and organizations to join us in denouncing discrimination. We stand together. We stand against hate.”

Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy | Apply Now!

Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy

Application Deadline: April 5, 2019 at 4 p.m. CST

Apply Here

Apply for the seventh annual Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy (CBLA) in Denver, Colorado from June 23 to 25, 2019. The CBLA is a collaborative effort among the American Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Bar Association, National Native American Bar Association, and NAPABA. The CBLA will strengthen the pipeline of diverse bar association leaders through leadership training and professional development programs.

The CBLA is intended for up-and-coming bar leaders who have been in practice for 5-15 years and have served as officers of a NAPABA affiliate and/or chair/co-chair of a NAPABA committee.

Deadline | Apply by Wednesday, April 5

The application can be accessed here.

Applicants will be asked to submit a brief essay of 250-500 words, a CV/resume, and two letters of recommendation.

Questions?

More information about the program can be found on the CBLA website. Please contact CBLA Steering Committee members Gary Zhao (gzhao@salawus.com), Greg Schwartz (gschwartz@billionarmitage.com), Kristin Haugen (kc@kchaugenlaw.com) and Marianne Chow Newman (mwchow@hearst.com) with any questions.