Florida Supreme Court tells state bar to stop funding diversity initiatives
The Florida Supreme Court has directed the state bar to stop funding diversity and inclusion initiatives in its new budget. Illustration by Sara Wadford/ABA Journal/Shutterstock.
The Florida Supreme Court has directed the state bar to stop funding diversity and inclusion initiatives in its new budget.
In response, the Florida Bar will transition its Diversity and Inclusion Committee to a new Membership Outreach Committee that will encourage Florida lawyers to get more involved with the bar, report Florida Bar News, Law360 and Bloomberg Law. Diversity funding will also be moved to the new committee.
The Florida Bar is an arm of the Florida Supreme Court, which has oversight of the bar’s budget, the Florida Bar’s communications director told Law360.
The bar’s current budget called for spending $234,000 on diversity and inclusion, according to Bloomberg Law. The previous fiscal year, the bar spent about $300,000 on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The Florida Supreme Court supports bar participation by all members, according to Paul Flemming, the state supreme court’s director of public information, who was quoted by Law360 and Florida Bar News. As a governmental entity, the bar must treat all members equally and without bias, Flemming said.
The state supreme court’s directive follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision striking down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
But diversity is not the same as affirmative action, according to Merrick L. Gross, a shareholder at Carlton Fields, who spoke with Law360.
“There are lots of ways to support and enhance diversity without affirmative action,” said Gross, who told Law360 that he was speaking for himself and not his law firm. “Acknowledging and understanding diversity can amount to removing barriers and creating truly equal opportunity.”
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