“Elimination of bias” for Minnesota lawyers

Scott Johnson at Power Line has a lookback-with-updates on the controversy over Minnesota CLE (continuing legal education) requirements precariously balanced between indoctrination and vacuity. “What bias does the Court seek to eliminate? If the elimination-of-bias requirement can be satisfied by courses such as ‘Understanding Problem Gambling,’ as it can, the requirement has become just one more way of making a statement while making the practice of law slightly more unpleasant than it already was or is.” We covered the issue back in 2003 (“compulsory chapel”).


  • “If the elimination-of-bias requirement can be satisfied by courses such as ‘Understanding Problem Gambling,’ as it can…”

    So many hidden assumptions in that statement. First, the assumption that bias is inherently wrong; second, the assumption that the status of “bias” can be rigorously defined so that one is either biased or not, with no grey areas; third, that a course can do something about it, instead of may be able to do something about it.

    In reality, it just teaches the biased individual what the limits of acceptable behavior are. It is always possible to construct a logical argument to support one’s position. These courses merely instruct people in which arguments to avoid.

  • Walter, the way that various state bars manipulate CLE requirements is one of my pet peeves. While I understand the point about ideological issues, the fundamental problem with CLE is economic. Some state bars make a lot of money from CLE and write rules to inhibit the offering of easy, accessible, cheap CLEs that would successfully compete with the state bar. They make is hard to claim credit for presentations by other states, for example. Other bars are more libertarian about content and presentation (e.g., Arizona, California). Over the years I’ve tried to interest some law student in taking this one as a paper topic, but have had no takers.

  • We run into this same problem in education. Continuing education that meets the state requirements frequently has no relation to becoming a better teacher, and reading and participation in various forums that do lead to being a better teacher don’t count as continuing education to meet the state requirements.

  • Re: the elimination-of-bias requirement (gulp), this is disappointing but not surprising:

    “The Supreme Court rejected Rothenberg’s constitutional challenge to the elimination-of-bias requirement. In re Petition of Elliot Rothenberg, 676 N.W. 2d 283 (Minn. 2004). It’s an important case setting forth the Court’s own defense of the rule.”

    It’s just one of the many ways politically correct absurdities steamroller over us: the message is that it’s useless to even fight them.