Edward Blum group drops lawsuit against Morrison Foerster

The conservative group behind several lawsuits challenging diversity, equity and inclusion programs has dropped its lawsuit against law firm Morrison Foerster after the firm opened its diversity scholarship to all students – and not just those from underrepresented groups.

In a filing Friday, the American Alliance for Equal Rights said it dismissed its lawsuit alleging that the Morrison Foerster Diversity Fellowship, which was only open to certain racial minorities, illegally excluded applicants in because of their race. The lawsuit was filed in August, alongside a similar lawsuit alleging that a diversity scholarship offered by the Perkins Coie law firm was also illegally discriminatory on the basis of race. The alliance is led by conservative activist Edward Blum, whose lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill resulted in the Supreme Court overturning higher education admissions for racial reasons.

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Morrison Foerster’s fellowship was open only to “a diverse population that has historically been underrepresented in the legal profession,” including Black, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ+ people. After the alliance’s lawsuit was filed, Morrison Foerster opened the scholarship to all first-year law students.

“In essence, (Morrison Foerster) admits that his prior program was illegal and opened it to all law students, regardless of race and ethnicity,” Blum said in an emailed statement. “Members of the American Alliance for Equal Rights are pleased that this illegal policy has been changed to include everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. »

Morrison Foerster said in a statement that the firm is “pleased with AAER’s decision not to pursue a meritless case and looks forward to welcoming another talented class of Wetmore Fellows to the firm this summer “.

“Being a leader in efforts to remove barriers and create opportunities in the legal profession has made us a target, but Morrison Foerster’s commitment is firm and unwavering,” it added.

Also Friday, Perkins Coie announced that it has revised the scholarship program that was previously open only to students of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ and students with disabilities. Now, the scholarship is open to first- and second-year law students from all backgrounds, according to its website. The company said the changes were prompted by the Supreme Court’s June decision to remove racial considerations in college admissions.

“Our new Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship program continues Perkins Coie’s long-standing and deep-rooted commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our firm and across the board. the legal profession,” said Genhi Givings Bailey, Perkins Coie’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Blum said Friday that, for now, his group will continue its lawsuit against Perkins Coie.

The lawsuits are part of a broader legal offensive aimed at dismantling private sector DEI programs. Shortly after her Supreme Court victory in June, Blum filed a lawsuit against the Fearless Fund, a private venture capital firm for women of color, alleging that its grant program for black women business owners companies discriminated on the basis of race. In September, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit temporarily blocked grants from the fund.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, a law firm representing the Fearless Fund in the case, has changed the eligibility requirements for its diversity grants, Bloomberg Law reported in September. Instead of being for “students who identify with an underrepresented group,” the scholarships are now for those who “have demonstrated resilience and excellence in their path to a career in law.”

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