Annual Meeting

Legal Ed pulls back HOD diversity resolution, saying more discussion is needed

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A resolution involving changes to law school standards focused on diversity and academic freedom has been withdrawn by the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

“The council has decided that matters addressed in Resolution 300 deserve further consideration and dialogue,” Antonio Garcia-Padilla, dean emeritus of the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, told the ABA House of Delegates on Monday when it met at the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The withdrawn resolution called for amendments to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. The two standards that were singled out for change were Standard 206, which requires full opportunities for underrepresented groups, and Standard 405, which focuses on academic freedom for faculty. Following two notice and comment periods, which included concerns the proposed revisions did not comport with existing case law, the council in February 2022 approved a proposed amendment for 206 to clarify it prohibited racial balancing in any way.

Regarding Standard 405, the withdrawn resolution attempted to make clear law schools must follow tenure and academic freedom policies with respect to Standard 206.

On Aug. 1, the American Bar Association submitted an amicus brief in favor of upholding Grutter v. Bollinger. The landmark 2003 opinion found that the equal protection clause does not prohibit law school’s from narrowly tailored use of race in admissions. The question is before the U.S. Supreme Court again, in two pending cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting here.

The two remaining Legal Education resolutions were approved by the House of Delegates. Resolution 301 focused on Standards 306 and 311, which address distance learning. The changes were made to comport with recent U.S. Department of Education guidelines.

For Standard 306, revisions include requirements that faculty monitor students’ engagement, provide feedback on course work and facilitate group discussions in remote learning. With Standard 311, the change clarifies that law schools can grant up to one-third of the credits needed for a law degree without applying for a substantive change with the council.

Teach-out plans and identifying who can attend council matters outside of open session were addressed in Resolution 302. The approved revisions include adding language that law schools do not have the right to observe council deliberations related to hearings. Also, the changes give more authority to council-appointed executive committees regarding teach-out plans.

The change was made so students at schools headed toward teach-out agreements “can make decisions as quickly as possible,” Joan Howland, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, told the House of Delegates.

Both Garcia-Padilla and Howland are Legal Education section representatives to the House of Delegates.

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