On April 15, 2021, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion proposing an amendment to Bar Rule 6-10.3, which governs minimum standards for continuing legal education programs. It did so on its own motion and in response to the State Bar Business Law Section’s mandate that the panels for CLE programs include members from unrepresented groups. For panels with three or four participants, the section would require that one member be diverse, and more such members would be required for larger panels. The policy stated, “The BLS will not sponsor, co-sponsor, or seek CLE accreditation for any program failing to comply with this policy unless an exception or appeal is granted.”
The Florida Supreme Court said that it understood the “objectives underlying the policy at issue,” but saw the policy as a discriminatory quota. It explained, “Quotas based on characteristics like the ones in this policy are antithetical to basic American principles of nondiscrimination.” As amended, the Rule would read, “The board of legal specialization and education may not approve any course submitted by a sponsor, including a section of The Florida Bar, that uses quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in the selection of course faculty or participants.” Comments on the proposed amendment are due on or before June 29, 2021.
As some have noted, the American Bar Association has a similar policy, which states, “The ABA expects that all CLE programs sponsored or co-sponsored by the ABA meet the aspirations of Goal III by having the faculty include members of diverse groups as identified by Goal III (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability).” As Ed Whelan observes, the Florida official responsible for approving CLE programs “should require sponsors to submit any policies or practices they have on panel composition.”