Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Bar leaders and educators from across the state will gather at St. Thomas University this month to discuss diversity and develop plans to increase the numbers of minorities in the profession, education, and on the bench.“It is my desire not only to discuss the issues, but to reach some concrete conclusions as to how diversity in our profession can be achieved,” said Bar President Miles McGrane. “I believe it should be our goal that Florida law school enrollment, the Bar, and judiciary truly reflect the diversity of our society within the next 10 years.”The Florida Bar’s Symposium on Diversity in the Legal Profession will be held April 16-17 at the St. Thomas School of Law in Miami Gardens.Miami attorney Maryanne Lukacs, who is chairing the event, said the symposium attendees will discuss the historical foundations and definitions of “minority,” including race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation and how to achieve greater diversity in legal education, as well as how to strengthen minority participation in undergraduate programs that lead to law school applications.Lukacs said the participants will address such topics as minority lawyer employment issues, judicial clerkships, mentoring programs, and minority participation in Bar sections, committees, and staff. They also will talk about minority participation on judicial nominating commissions.“The whole purpose is to make sure the makeup of our judiciary and profession matches the makeup of society,” Lukacs said, adding that the key is getting more minorities into law school. “It all stems from education.. . it is not to lower the standards; it is just to increase the numbers.”Henry Latimer, a Board of Governors member who is on the symposium planning committee, said the profession, traditionally, does not have a track record where diversity has been a focal point of concern.“However, in recent years, society and our profession have become more sensitized to diversity issues because both have become more diverse and projections indicate that the trend will continue,” Latimer said. “Against this background, it is absolutely essential that the Bar takes the lead in exploring all aspects of diversity within our profession to gain credibility with all Floridians in believing in one of the Bar’s missions.”That is, Latimer said, to increase and maintain citizens’ confidence in the fairness of the justice system “irrespective of their race, gender, national origin, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference.”“It is about promoting inclusion and not exclusion, which has been the widely held perception by many of our nonmajority citizens over the years,” Latimer said. “Exclusion has to be buried. The symposium is the beginning of an overdue journey which will definitely lead to immeasurable positive results.”While the most recent federal census finds 65.4 percent of the state’s population is Caucasian that is not of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 16.8 percent are Hispanic or Latino, and 14.6 percent are African American, Bar surveys show that 89 percent of the Bar is now Caucasian, 8 percent is Hispanic, and 2 percent are African American. Overall, 51.2 percent of the state population is made up of women.Yet, McGrane noted, of the state’s 872 judges, 86.5 percent are white; 6.5 percent are black; 6.1 percent are Hispanic; and women make up 24.4 percent of the judges.“Unless we have diversity at the Bar, we will never have diversity on the bench,” McGrane said. “Furthermore, if we do not have diversity among those passing the bar exam, we will not have diversity in the Bar, and we will not have diversity among those passing the bar until will have diversity in the law schools.”Lukacs said she is hoping to receive a lot of participation from the community, lawyers, judges, law students, and some of the undergraduate colleges — be it students or administrators— “so that they can be part of the conversation and offer some assistance to the panel members on what they have found and how we can all work together to come up with greater diversity.”Those scheduled to speak include McGrane, St. Thomas Law Dean Bob Butterworth, Dean Leonard Strickman of the Florida International University School of Law, Dean Percy Luney, Jr., of Florida A&M College of Law; Lee Milford, Katherine Silverglate, Judge Fred Seraphin, Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., Ramon Abadin, and Equal Opportunities Law Section Chair Tammy Fields. For more information contact Yvonne Sherron at [email protected] or (850) 561-5620. Bar’s diversity set for St. Thomas in April April 1, 2004 Managing Editor Regular News Bar’s diversity symposium set for St. Thomas in April
"Bar’s diversity symposium set for St. Thomas in April"