Florida Supreme Court Alters CLE Rules to Withhold Approval from Programs with Diversity Policies

Published on: June 7, 2021

When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better. That quote from Pat Wadors highlights the importance of listening to diverse points of view. Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t agree.

In April, the Florida Supreme Court announced that it would not approve any Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course submitted by any sponsor “that uses quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in the selection of course faculty or participants.” The Court issued this pronouncement after the Business Law Section of The Florida Bar adopted a diversity policy for CLE panelists.

Florida’s ruling is far from the norm. Most states require lawyers to take a certain number of CLE courses every year to maintain their licenses. The majority of states either encourage or have policies relating to the composition of CLE panels, so that attendees can benefit from diverse viewpoints. For example, the American Bar Association requires that CLE panels with three or more panelists have diversity based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other.

To justify its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court cited past U.S. Supreme Court decisions, concluding that the CLE diversity policy is inconsistent with anti-discrimination laws. However, fair and equal opportunity is best achieved when people from all backgrounds and experiences participate. Policies like the one adopted by the ABA help eliminate bias and expand diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Let’s hope that the Florida Supreme Court reconsiders its Order and recognizes the importance of and the need for diverse viewpoints to help its state’s lawyers understand the issues facing them.