White Attorney Sues State Bar of Texas for Discrimination

A white attorney sued the State Bar of Texas governing board on Monday for discrimination. Austin-based attorney Greg Gegenheimer brought action against several defendants representing the state bar because he claims they are violating the Equal Protection Clause by maintaining a “race- and sex-based quota scheme on its Board of Directors,” according to the Dec. 5 lawsuit.

Gegenheimer wants to apply for one of the minority seats, but his lawsuit claims he is not eligible because state law dictates he must be a woman and a racial minority. He claims this exclusion is discriminatory, both racially and sexually, and violates the Constitution’s equal-protection clause.

The defendants include all the members of the state bar’s board of directors who are currently accepting nominations to fill a minority seat on the board.

The state bar’s board of directors sets policy and includes 30 members elected by other attorneys, six appointed members by the Texas Supreme Court and four minority directors appointed by the bar’s president. Amy Starnes, the public information director for the State Bar, told the Observer, "We are reviewing the complaint and have no comment at this time."

The Project on Fair Representation, a nonprofit legal defense foundation that supports litigation challenging racial and ethnic classifications, helped Gegenheimer file the lawsuit. The Virginia-based foundation sponsored Abigail Fisher’s 2013 lawsuit challenging, unsuccessfully, a University of Texas policy that included race as one of many factors for admittance.

The Project’s president Edward Blum said in a statement on Monday, “There is no legal rationale the Bar can offer to justify this discrimination.”

Blum later told the Austin American-Statesman, “For the last 40 years, numeric racial and gender quotas like those mandated by the Texas Bar have been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.”

Gegenheimer’s attorneys Jonathan Mitchell and William Consovoy could not be reached for comment. But they're seeking a court ruling that declares the "minority director law" unconstitutional. They're also requesting the judge issue an injunction and an order forbidding the bar from discriminating “against white men.”