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V&E Secures Dismissal of Constitutional Claims Against Texas State Bar

Published: 07-07-2017

On July 5, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas dismissed for lack of jurisdiction a lawsuit challenging the State Bar of Texas’ appointment of minority member directors.

Plaintiff Greg Gegenheimer, a white male, alleged that the State Bar Act’s limitation of such positions to State Bar members who are “female, African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, or Asian-American” constituted race- and gender-based discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

After the Texas Legislature amended the State Bar Act to replace the minority member director provisions with provisions for “at-large directors,” who may be of any race or gender, the State Bar—represented by Vinson & Elkins—argued that the new law mooted Gegenheimer’s claims, depriving the district court of jurisdiction over Gegenheimer’s lawsuit. The Bar also argued that Gegenheimer lacked standing to challenge the existing minority member directors, who under the new law are allowed to complete their terms, after which they will be replaced by at-large directors appointed under the new procedures.

The district court agreed with these arguments, concluding that Gegenheimer’s action was moot and that it would be futile for Gegenheimer to amend his complaint to challenge the existing directors because he lacked standing to assert such a challenge. The district court thus dismissed Gegenheimer’s action for lack of jurisdiction and denied his request for leave to amend his complaint to challenge the existing minority member directors.

The V&E litigation team included partners Tom Leatherbury and Harry Reasoner, senior associate Josh Johnson, associate Kent Piacenti and former partner Sandra Rodriguez.

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