Wisconsin Court Rejects State Bar Diversity Training Proposal

A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected a proposal by the State’s Bar to have Wisconsin attorneys fulfill their required continuing legal education credits with classes addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and bias issues.

The State Bar’s proposal would have allowed Wisconsin lawyers to fulfill up to the entire 30-hour requirement with classes “addressing diversity and inclusion in the legal system of all persons” and “topics designed to educate attorneys on the recognition and reduction of bias.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the petition without holding a hearing.
In a 30-page concurrence, Justice Rebecca Bradley said the petition was unnecessary because lawyers can already receive CLE credit for classes related to diversity, inclusion and bias.
She called the petition “virtue signaling,” and claimed that some courses devoted to current notions of diversity and bias “damage human dignity, undermine equality, and violate the law.”
Dean Dietrich, a shareholder at the Weld Riley Law Firm and the president of the Wisconsin State Bar, said in a statement that she was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision.
While lawyers can already take some diversity and inclusion-related classes for CLE credit, the bar thought it was important to codify the practice “as essential part of lawyers’ professional development,” Dietrich said.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack joined Bradley’s concurrence.
Three of the court’s seven justices dissented, noting that 21 U.S. states either require or allow diversity and inclusion-related training to count toward a lawyer’s CLE requirements.
Clashes over ideology and proposed CLE regulations are also playing out in other states, including Pennsylvania. State officials there adopted a professional rule for lawyers prohibiting them from knowingly engaging in harassing or discriminating conduct that has been challenged for allegedly violating attorneys’ free speech rights.
A federal judge blocked the Pennsylvania rule in March 2022, finding it to be overbroad and in conflict with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The case is now pending before the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

You can read more about these developments here.

With the end of the year approaching, take a look at all of our CLE bundles here. If you have any questions regarding your state’s CLE compliance rules, just email us at info@marinolegal.com.