The annual White Collar Conference is back on after the COVID pause. It's being held at the Miami Hyatt. Typically 1,500 lawyers descend in Miami and try to fit in at all of the clubs on Brickell and Miami Beach. This year, though, only about 500 lawyers are here.
In addition to COVID-anxiety, many have speculated that attendance isn't at normal levels because of the ABA fight with the Florida Supreme Court over CLE credits. Florida Bulldog covers it here:
The Florida Supreme Court seems to be buffing its ultra-rightist image by picking a fight about diversity with Florida Bar leaders and the American Bar Association.
Propelling it all is a controversial 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlaws “reverse discrimination,” Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Florida’s high court is resurrecting Bakke to suggest that a diversity policy is really an unfair quota intended to displace white men in favor of women and minorities.
Traditionally the court wields its power over the Florida Bar only after weighing all sides of an issue. It takes in facts and opinions from the legal community, then makes or changes rules for everything from lawyer discipline to divorce procedures.
Not this time. The subject is Continuing Legal Education (CLE), the tightly regulated system that licensed lawyers use to keep up with developments in their practice areas.
In an unusual move, the justices accepted no input before rejecting a pro-diversity policy for CLEs that was recently adopted by the Bar’s Business Law Section, copying a 2017 ABA guideline. Both set numerical goals for CLE faculties so they represent all races, genders, ethnicities and viewpoints.
“We don’t exclude anybody from participating in the panels,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo has explained. “What we do, where necessary, is to expand the size of the panel to include nontraditional voices.”
Although no white male Florida lawyers had reason to complain about getting kicked off Continuing Legal Education panels, the Florida Supreme Court decided to strike down the diversity policy on its own. Not a single self-identified injured party presented a “case or controversy,” the standard trigger for litigation.
Court: ‘Quotas’ taint Continuing Legal Education
The court’s April 15 ruling prevents Florida lawyers from earning CLE credits for ABA courses. According to a majority of the justices, the courses are corrupted by “quotas” just like Business Law Section courses would have been under the rejected policy.
“It is essential that The Florida Bar withhold its approval from continuing legal education programs that are tainted by such discrimination,” the court declared in its unsigned opinion.