Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Florida Bar Imposes Diversity Quotas for CLE Panels

I missed the news from last fall that the Florida Bar’s Business Law Section has established diversity quotas for its Continuing Legal Education programs. Specifically, as the Business Law Section’s “diversity application” states:

[T]he following guidelines apply to CLE programs with three or more panel participants, including the moderator:

(a) individual programs with faculty of three or four panel participants, including the moderator, require at least 1 diverse member;

(b) individual programs with faculty of five to eight panel participants, including the moderator, require at least 2 diverse members; and

(c) individual programs with faculty of nine or more panel participants, including the moderator, require at least 3 diverse members.

The Business Law Section will not sponsor, co-sponsor, or seek CLE accreditation for any program failing to comply with this policy unless an exception or appeal is granted. [Boldface in original.]

Diverse members include members of diverse groups based upon race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and multiculturalism.

While Florida lawyers are not required to be members of the Business Law Section (or of any other Section of the Florida Bar), they are required to be members of, and to pay dues to, the Florida Bar. So as a condition of practicing law in the state, they are required to be members of an organization that has an overt policy of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and other diverse categories—not including, of course, intellectual or ideological diversity.

In nearly twenty states—including, for example, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey—membership in a state bar association is optional for attorneys who practice in the state. (These states still require attorneys to be licensed to practice in the state.) Perhaps it’s time for the Florida supreme court to consider making membership in the Florida Bar optional for Florida lawyers.

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