MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, WILL, is suing the State Bar of Wisconsin over their Diversity Clerkship Program alleging it unconstitutionally prefers students of certain ethnic backgrounds.
The program coordinates first-year law students with clerkship programs at certain government or business organizations. The program’s website says a requirement to apply is being from “backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the legal field.” Through the program, law students have been able to clerk at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Kohler Co, the City of Madison and several other organizations.
WILL argues the program is unconstitutional because it selects those clerks because of “various protected traits in its eligibility and selection process; such as race, national origin, gender and sexuality,” according to WILL’s Associate Council Skylar Croy.
“I’m all for helping law students get jobs in the legal profession,” Croy said. ” What we’re saying the Bar can’t do, is, use these protected traits in its’ selection process.”
All attorneys in Wisconsin are required to be members of the State Bar, which includes paying membership fees. Croy went on to say WILL’s client in the suit, attorney Daniel Suhr, opposes his membership fees being used to fund the Diversity Clerkship Program.
Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court struck down diversity programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. Croy says they believe the precedent from that ruling should make it difficult for the clerkship program to continue.
“The Bar will have to show (discrimination) happened in the past, this is necessary to remedy it and that the State Bar had a hand in discrimination,” Croy said.
WTMJ reached out to the Wisconsin State Bar, the Milwaukee Bar Association and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School for comment on the lawsuit, but did not hear back.
Director of the State Bar Larry J. Martin told the Associated Press they will “vigorously defend” the clerkship program.
“Neither race nor ethnicity is an eligibility factor or requirement for purposes of participation.”
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