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Court ends Bar diversity funding

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The Bar will transition the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and its funding to a new Membership Outreach Committee, tasked with encouraging all Florida lawyers to enhance their Bar involvement

The Florida Bar entrance sign, which includes the seal in black with gold lettering, with brick pillars on either side, with a flowering white fringe tree in full bloom.The Florida Supreme Court has directed The Florida Bar to eliminate funding for diversity and inclusion initiatives from its forthcoming budget, a move that includes the removal of allocated funds for the Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Paul Flemming, the Supreme Court’s director of Public Information, said that Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz supports and advocates for the participation and leadership of all Bar members. However, he emphasized that The Florida Bar, as a governmental entity structured by the state’s constitution, must treat all members impartially and without bias. Flemming noted that discontinuing funding for the Bar’s diversity and inclusion efforts aligns with the Supreme Court’s actions regarding its own Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity.

Florida Bar President Scott Westheimer said that as an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, the Bar operates under the court’s exclusive authority and direction. In accordance with the court’s directive, the Bar will transition the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and its funding to a new Membership Outreach Committee, tasked with encouraging all Florida lawyers to enhance their involvement with the Bar. These changes are slated to take effect at the onset of the next budget cycle, commencing on July 1.

Addressing the Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee during the Winter Meeting in Orlando last week, Westheimer expressed gratitude to the members for their longstanding dedication and encouraged them to remain involved in the Bar and the new Membership Outreach Committee. He assured members that those who had submitted committee preference forms for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee next year would have their preferences automatically forwarded for consideration by President-elect Roland Sanchez-Medina regarding membership on the new committee.

President-elect Designate Rosalyn Sia Baker-Barnes, a former member of and liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said Bar leadership emphasized to the court the importance of the committee, and the Bar’s need to provide pathways to involvement and leadership. She explained that the new Membership Outreach Committee will provide Bar members “with something we can continue to focus on to help our members from all backgrounds continue to be successful and continue to be welcome in the Bar.”

Flemming said the court’s direction and views on this matter are expressed in previous administrative orders issued in 2020 and 2023 as consistent application of the court’s opinion and reliance on absolute commitment to equal protection under the law for all.

“As expressed in those administrative orders, it is explicitly required by ethical canons to treat everyone fairly, equally, and without bias,” Flemming said. “The Florida Supreme Court champions and relies on those standards being met by the judiciary and members of the Bar.”

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