People v. State

fairly undermining public confidence in the administration of justice

A Jury of My Peers

December 08, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Norm Pattis asks you to “imagine how you’d react if you walked into a courtroom to face a jury of 12 souls with skins as dark as my client’s. Some part of you would feel betrayed, I am sure of it.” (You are presumably white.)

I’m white. Back in law school at the University of Wisconsin I participated in a moot court competition. The topic was the constitutionality of affirmative action in law school admissions. We had to argue both the “pro” side in front of one panel of three of our fellow law students and the “con” side in front of another panel of three of our fellow law students. Personally, after examining both sides, I had arrived at the opinion that if state-funded law school had a legitimate purpose it was not primarily to provide an education for people who wanted to be lawyers but to provide lawyers for the people, and that therefore affirmative action in law school admissions was constitutional, for the same reason that affirmative action in hiring correctional officers, to better reflect the racial diversity of the people being “corrected,” made all kinds of sense and was constitutional.

But imagine my surprise when I walked into the appointed classroom to argue the “con” side and was confronted by an all-black panel of my law school peers. (The law school had affirmative action but few black students.) Part of “my” argument (it didn’t originate with me) was that affirmative action “stigmatized” minorities who are accepted to law school, tarring all of them with the suspicion that they are not really qualified and were only admitted because of their race.

Maybe it was just me, but this argument didn’t seem to go over well with the panel.

Some part of me did feel betrayed.

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