A complaint filed by a legal group alleging discrimination against white male attorneys has led to an investigation by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Kennedy.
The complaint cites rules put in place by three federal judges on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. In 2020, the three judges issued nearly identical standing orders that allow female, non-white, less experienced attorneys the possibility of additional time for oral arguments and allow for coaching by more senior attorneys, reported Reuters. The rules were said to be intended to address a long-standing lack of diversity in attorneys in federal courts.
America First Legal (AFL) filed a complaint in late January arguing that the policy was discriminatory and a violation of ethics and the Constitution.
AFL’s general counsel Gene Hamilton said in a press release that the policies were “intolerable” and “treat some attorneys better than others based on the color of their skin or their sex.”
While the policy of encouraging younger attorneys in courts may have merit and is a view the American Bar Association has held since 2017, America First Legal alleges that the discriminatory rules run afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause, according to Reuters.
“Americans must have faith in the impartiality of the judiciary–knowing that their case will have a fair shot before a court and that they will not receive unfavorable treatment because of the immutable characteristics of the parties before the court or their counsel,” Hamilton said in the press release.
Cruz (R-TX), a ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, and Kennedy (R-LA), a ranking member of the Judicial Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, announced on Wednesday that they are launching an investigation into the claims.
A letter sent to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Cruz and Kennedy requests information on the number of cases impacted by the standing orders and the process the court uses to determine whether a standing order is discriminatory. Cruz and Kennedy specifically call attention to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which overturned the right of colleges to use race as a factor in making admissions decisions.
“Depriving parties of their right to oral argument based on the sex or race of the attorney undermines the principles of impartiality, fairness, due process, and … equal protection under the law upon which our judicial system is built. It is unfortunate that the federal taxpayer has, in part, supported such discriminatory conduct,” the senators’ letter reads.
America First Legal was founded by former President Donald Trump’s White House advisor Steven Miller. Miller has initiated complaints against several corporations in recent years that use sex, race, and gender discrimination to advance diversity goals, reported Reuters.