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Criticized by Alito, federal judge sees a lack of ‘understanding or interest’ in bias issues

Posted Dec 9, 2013 12:53 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in Manhattan says he is undeterred by criticism by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In an interview with Reuters last week, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer defended his practice of encouraging law firms to staff some class actions with minority and women lawyers. And Baer told the wire service that Alito lacked "either understanding or interest" in the discrimination faced by blacks, Latinos and women.

Alito had criticized Baer in a statement issued last month when the court denied cert in a case involving Sirius XM Radio. Alito questioned the constitutionality of what he said was apparently a “standard practice” by Baer—imposing race- and sex-based staffing requirements on law firms in class-certification orders.

Baer told Reuters he notes the value of such staffing but he doesn't make it a requirement, and he only does so in cases where the plaintiffs are mainly minorities and women.

Baer, 80, said he wasn’t surprised by Alito’s statement. "I think the tongue-in-cheek answer would be that I was surprised because of how much he's done in the way of supporting anti-discrimination laws over the years," Baer said. "But that would be just a facetious comment."

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