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Rare Supreme Court Diversity Shown on MacArthur Justice Team

Oct. 15, 2021, 8:15 PM

The lack of racial and gender diversity at U.S. Supreme Court arguments is well known to practitioners and court-watchers alike.

It’s notable, then, that the whole team behind a recently argued high-court appeal consists of people of color or women.

Amir Ali, who led the MacArthur Justice Center’s effort in Thompson v. Clark and argued the civil-rights appeal Oct. 12, emphasized the importance of that diversity on the latest episode of Bloomberg Law’s “Cases and Controversies” podcast.

“Our group at the MacArthur Justice Center is certainly very conscientious of this and very aware of problems of diversity in the legal profession and certainly in the Supreme Court bar, where it’s perhaps at its worst for a variety of reasons,” Ali said on the podcast that recapped the first sitting of the 2021-22 term. He directs the center’s Washington office and is deputy director of its Supreme Court and Appellate Program.

On the briefs with Ali were Devi Rao, Damilola Arowolaju, Elise Baranouski, Perry Cao, Christina Davis, and Elizabeth Bixby.

Such diversity “is not what you ordinarily see on briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ali said on the podcast. He expressed hope “that others jump in and start thinking about what they can do to have teams that look a little bit different than the ordinary teams that appear in the court.”

Ali argued on behalf of Larry Thompson in the dispute over rules for suing law enforcement in federal court for alleged rights violations.

He said his team’s diversity “made our briefing better.” He said the team “was a bunch of wicked-smart people and I was really lucky to have them. They asked me—sorry, justices—but they asked me better questions than the justices did in court and prepared me in every way that an attorney would want to be prepared.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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