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Diversity is worthy goal This month we celebrated “Law Day,” an annual holiday created in the late 1950s by the American Bar Association and later supported by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to underscore the principles of law and justice that define us as a culture. This year’s event was all the more noteworthy because it is also the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. We have seen front-page re-examinations of the actual, versus perceived, importance of Brown. While historians will continue to debate that, there is little doubt the body of American law that has grown since the decision is strongly supportive of minority and gender rights. It was not that way in 1954. Decent people throughout this country were not convinced that Rosa Parks had a right to ride the bus in the first open seat. Without lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, burning with a belief in the rightness of their clients’ causes, we would not have Brown to celebrate. Powerful events evoke powerful reactions. Lawyers in a hundred different cities will think about Brown in a hundred different ways. Many will resolve to approach the unique challenges of their own practice from a commitment to equality and justice. One aspect of our profession, however, affects us all: 50 years later, our legal profession-especially private practice-does not reflect the population we serve. In many firms, people of color and women are dramatically underrepresented. In too many, they are not represented at all. The problem is particularly acute when we survey partnership ranks. If there are not enough African-American or Hispanic or female associates, there will be few such partners. The trial firm that is unrepresentative of its community is immediately apparent, for it must send its lawyers into courtrooms to meet juries. Our most sophisticated clients know this, and they want trial teams who look like the communities they live in. They are not inviting a debate here; they are inviting us to make it happen-now. The Defense Research Institute (DRI), a national organization of defense trial lawyers and corporate counsel, is among the professional groups trying to make it happen. DRI honors Law Day 2004 by providing substantial scholarship funds for second-year minority law students at accredited law schools. For more details, visit DRI at www.dri.org. Lawyers are first and foremost about accomplishing something. DRI challenges all in our profession to develop practical initiatives that carry forward the spirit of Brown. William Sampson Overland Park, Kan. The writer is president of DRI. State’s rights undermined Tresa Baldas was right to point out in “A ‘wine war’ goes to threshold of high court” [NLJ, April 12] that a recent appellate court ruling “could push the doors wide open for Internet sales of booze.” The ruling undermines a state’s right to regulate the sale of alcohol within its own borders. In fact, it’s no wonder that 37 state attorneys general have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. [Cert. has been granted in three consolidated cases.] The article, however, failed to mention three other key points. First, every state maintains a regulated tracking and distribution system for alcohol. Those systems help prevent illegal sales to minors and intoxicated persons and also help ensure that taxes are collected. Second, the lower court overlooked the clear intent of the 21st Amendment. Citing case law, the 37 state attorneys general argued that the 21st Amendment empowers states with “virtually complete control over whether to permit importation or sale of liquor and how to structure the liquor distribution system.” Third, the latest appellate court to rule on this issue rebuffed the alcohol industry and upheld New York’s law requiring out-of-state wineries to sell their product through state-regulated wholesalers. Unregulated, unaccountable and anonymous is no way to sell beer, wine and liquor in our society. Unfortunately, the influential, billion-dollar wine industry, which is driving this campaign to deregulate, is placing soaring profits ahead of sound policy. Viet D. Dihn Washington The writer is a professor of law and a consultant to the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

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