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Court bans quotas in choosing CLE speakers

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SupremeCourt-seal-150x150Bar-approved continuing legal education courses may not set quotas to guarantee diversity among presenters for those programs, according to the Florida Supreme Court.

The court on its own motion on April 15 amended Bar Rule 6-10.3(d). The court said it was reacting to a recent Business Law Section policy that “imposes quotas requiring a minimum number of ‘diverse’ faculty, depending on the number of faculty teaching the course.”

The policy said diversity should include “race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and multiculturalism.”

The court said that policy was understandable but, citing past U.S. Supreme Court decisions, held it was inconsistent with established law on discrimination.

“Quotas based on characteristics like the ones in this policy are antithetical to basic American principles of nondiscrimination,” the court said. “It is essential that The Florida Bar withhold its approval from continuing legal education programs that are tainted by such discrimination.”

The court added language to Rule 6-10.3 which says: “The board of legal specialization and education may not approve any course submitted by a sponsor, including a section of The Florida Bar, that uses quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in the selection of course faculty or participants.”

Justice Jorge Labarga dissented from the opinion, saying a rule change isn’t necessary.

“I believe that a simple letter directed to the Business Law Section, communicating that such action may be in violation of United States Supreme Court precedent, would have sufficed,” he wrote.

Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polson, Alan Lawson, Carlos Muñiz, John Couriel, and Jamie Grosshans concurred in the per curiam opinion.

In a separate concurring opinion, Lawson said he supported the section’s “well-intended motivation” in adopting the diversity policy. He said the court and Bar’s commitment to a fair and equal justice system is best advanced when people from all backgrounds and experiences participate.

“It is essential that we continue this work, and I am grateful to the Bar and its sections for their continued pursuit of these core ideals that are central to further advancing the cause of freedom for all, secured for all through the rule of law,” Lawson wrote.

The rule amendment is effective immediately. Because it was not previously published for comment, interested members have 75 days to comment on the rule change.

The court acted in In re: Amendment to Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 6-10.3, Case No. SC21-284.

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