Dear Members of the Paul, Weiss Community,
I began Tuesday’s meeting of our Inclusion Task Force by expressing pain, sorrow and outrage at the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department and the racial targeting of Christian Cooper in our own backyard, just as I had expressed pain, sorrow and outrage several weeks earlier during an Associates town hall at the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Too often in recent years I have found myself expressing pain, sorrow and outrage at the senseless and racially motivated murder of persons of color.
Words feel increasingly hollow. My expressions of pain, sorrow and outrage cannot bring back George Floyd. They cannot bring back Ahmaud Arbery, or any of the thousands of other innocents whose lives have been taken solely because of the color of their skin. It is not enough to care. It is time for engagement. It is time for action. It is time for accountability. It is time for justice.
Our law firm has been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice, beginning long before I was born. Nearly a century ago, our partner Walter Pollak successfully persuaded the Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of the “Scottsboro Boys” – four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Alabama and sentenced to death. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932). Lloyd Garrison, the grandson of the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, joined our firm in 1945 and pressed for racial justice and urged our firm to play a leadership role in the Civil Rights movement. In 1949, we hired Bill Coleman and became the first major law firm in the United States to hire a lawyer of color. As fate would have it, Bill Coleman joined forces with Louis Pollak, the son of Walter Pollak and at the time a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss (who later became the Dean of Yale Law School and a celebrated U.S. federal district judge), and these two Paul, Weiss lawyers worked closely with Thurgood Marshall and the Legal Defense Fund lawyers in developing the overall strategy for attacking the legality of segregated public education and drafting the briefs in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
We have continued in the decades since to fight for racial justice, in all its forms and manifestations. We successfully challenged voting rights restrictions based on race. We successfully challenged racial discrimination in housing, in education, in criminal sentencing. We helped draft the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act. We participated in peaceful marches from Selma to Montgomery. We chaired the Board of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in its formative years and again quite recently, and we successfully fought the group of Southern Republican Senators who tried to destroy it by revoking its tax-exempt status. We co-chaired the White House Conference on Civil Rights. As Martin Luther King noted, Paul, Weiss has been “in the forefront of the public battle against racial discrimination.”
Fighting for racial justice is at the heart of what we are as an institution; it is what we stand for; it is what we believe in our hearts; it is what attracted so many of us to join this firm. I have spoken to Ted, Jeh and Loretta. I have spoken to the members of the Inclusion Task Force and many others within our community. We stand united in saying that enough is enough. Expressions of pain, sorrow and outrage are not sufficient.
We need accountability; we need change; we need justice. And we need them now. No more lives can be taken without consequences. We must directly confront this national crisis.
We have a unique history of fighting for racial justice; we have a powerful platform; we have the will to effect meaningful change and to root out systemic racism.
I intend to work with Ted, Jeh and Loretta, as well as our Inclusion Task Force and other members of our community, to develop an actionable plan to promote and secure racial justice in our country.
We want to hear your thoughts and suggestions of how we can best achieve what we have fought for over the past century, making the promise of America real for all of our citizens.
Please take care of yourselves and be safe.
Brad S. Karp | Chairman