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Skrmetti warns American Bar Association over new diversity and inclusion rules for law schools

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Skrmetti warns American Bar Association over new diversity and inclusion rules for law schools

Jun 06, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Anita Wadhwani
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Skrmetti warns American Bar Association over new diversity and inclusion rules for law schools
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Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is leading a coalition of Republican attorneys general warning about consideration of race in the law school admissions process.(Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is leading a coalition of 21 Republican states in issuing a warning to the American Bar Association against requiring law schools to consider race in hiring and admissions.

In a letter sent Monday, Skrmetti cautioned the association that its proposed changes to the standards it sets for all accredited U.S. law schools run afoul of a Supreme Court decision last year barring colleges and universities from race-based affirmative action practices.

It’s at least the third legal warning Skrmetti has issued from Tennessee to national organizations since the landmark June 2023 Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, which found the school’s considerations of race in student admissions unconstitutional.

In January, Skrmetti led a coalition of 19 GOP states in challenging the U.S. Department of Commerce’s so-called “best practice” policies that sought to increase “diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.”

Skrmetti cited the Supreme Court’s Harvard decision in warning the commerce department that “illicit racial discrimination and fundamentally anti-American principles.”

Attorney general threatens Fortune 100 companies order with legal action for race-based policies

In July, Skrmetti led a coalition of 13 attorneys general in warning Fortune 100 companies that they could face legal action if they used hiring, contracting and promotion policies based on race.

In issuing his most recent warning to the American Bar Association, Skrmetti said law schools would face certain litigation should they fail to heed his message.

“The rule of law cannot long survive if the organization that accredits legal education requires every American law school to ignore the Constitution and civil rights law,” Skrmetti said.

“If the standards continue to insist on treating students and faculty differently based on the color of their skin, they will burden every law school in America with punitive civil rights litigation,” he said.

Skrmetti also warned the American Bar Association guidance would force law schools into the difficult position of either complying with the rules required for accreditation or Supreme Court precedent.

The focus of the attorneys general is the ABA’s “Standard 206” that apply to all accredited law schools.

The ABA is currently in the process of revising these standards.

A draft of the proposed new standards say, in part, that law schools “shall demonstrate by concrete actions a commitment to diversity and inclusion by having a faculty and staff that are diverse with respect to race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, military status, Native American tribal citizenship, or socioeconomic background.”

The bottom line, Skrmetti wrote in his 8-page letter to the bar association, is the draft standards cannot be implemented.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that well-intentioned racial discrimination is just as illegal as invidious discrimination,” he said.

Skmretti letter 6-5-24