Texas AG files brief supporting lawsuit challenging sex, race quotas at State Bar
December 29, 2016 – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief on Wednesday in a federal court supporting a lawsuit challenging the racial and sex-based quotas for membership on the State Bar of Texas board.
Earlier this month, Austin-based attorney Greg Gegenheimer filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas against the president of the State Bar of Texas over four positions on the board of directors that are designated for minorities, according to Paxton’s brief.
“The State Bar has chosen the wrong tool to achieve the benefits of diversity,” Paxton wrote. “Instead of trusting its membership to vote for the most qualified candidates to collectively represent their interests, it has chosen to enforce strict racial and sex-based quotas for its leadership.”
Gegenheimer wanted to apply for an open position on the 46-member board, but the bar was accepting only “female, African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, or Asian-American” applicants, according to a news release from Paxton’s office. Gegenheimer, a white man, was unable to apply.
State Bar President Frank Stevenson said efforts to provide seats for minorities on the board of directors have been in place since 1991, when the Texas Legislature required the board to have four appointed minority members.
“Whatever the outcome of the constitutional challenge to the statute filed by Greg Gegenheimer, increasing diversity in the legal profession is a key part of the State Bar’s mission and vitally important to the State Bar and its leadership,” Stevenson said in a statement. “In our increasingly diverse state, all Texans deserve a legal profession that reflects and represents their interests.”
In his brief, Paxton called the quotas “unjustified and patently unconstitutional” and said the State Bar should push to become a private association in order to legally enforce these types of quotas.
“Quotas make bare the indignity of a naked racial and sex-based classification, because they define an individual’s sole worth based on an immutable trait,” Paxton wrote. “In the eyes of the State Bar, you either are or are not a minority member, and that single quality defines whether you can or cannot serve in a specific government role.”
By Madlin Mekelburg, Austin Bureau
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