Task Force Chaired by Jeh Johnson, Brad Karp To Review Legal Strategies for Maintaining Diversity if U.S. Supreme Court Throws Out or Weakens Affirmative Action
Brad Karp and Jeh Johnson
In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, the New York State Bar Association is launching a task force to recommend how colleges and businesses can maintain diversity.
If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that decades of race-conscious policies violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University or Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, the decision will have far-reaching implications beyond academia, said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association.
“Businesses – including law firms — will worry about the legitimacy of corporate diversity initiatives. This could also impact governmental programs that require quotas such as minority business enterprise requirements,” Lewis said. “We want to prepare our members, clients and lawyers throughout the state and nation for any eventuality.”
Brad Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss; and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who was the first African American elected to partnership at Paul, Weiss in 1993, will co-chair the task force.
“If the court overrules Grutter v. Bollinger and declares that diversity does not constitute a compelling interest in higher education, the standard set in the landmark case, the rulings will upend decades of legal precedent,” Johnson said. “Universities will be searching for legal means to sustain diversity, which is both morally right and educationally sound. A more diverse student body leads to a richer learning environment and better prepares students for any career imaginable.”
Karp, who speaks and writes frequently about pressing social justice issues, said if one or both Supreme Court cases are decided in favor of Students for Fair Admissions, high-profile legal challenges to corporate diversity programs – already on the rise — could skyrocket.
Karp said, “Our long history of breaking down barriers has taught us that diversity of thought makes our colleges, our businesses, our law firms and our courts stronger. We will never achieve true equity in our society if we are willing to sacrifice diversity. Preserving diversity by all legal means is a social imperative.”