The nation’s largest organization of Black legal professionals has taken the stance that the Trump administration’s position on civil rights is wrong and is working to overturn actions the group considers hurtful to minorities.

Keith Perry, executive director of the National Bar Association (NBA), said, in an exclusive interview with the AFRO, the Trump administration has shown contempt for civil rights.

Keith Perry, executive director of the National Bar Association, says the Trump administration has shown contempt for civil rights. (Courtesy Photo-NBA)

“We have a strong reason to be concerned with this administration’s view on civil rights,” Perry said. “The selection of Jeff Sessions as the attorney general was the shot across the bow for anyone who supports civil rights. Sessions has demonstrated indifference and outright hostility. Perry expressed similar sentiments for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to the U.S. Supreme Court as an associate justice, saying “that his opinions speak for themselves.”

The NBA was founded in 1925 for Black attorneys who weren’t allowed to join the American Bar Association. Its members include approximately 65,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students. Its headquarters is located in the District of Columbia.

Perry is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Howard University School of Law. He worked as the chief of staff to Marion Barry when he was a council member and served as a government relations advocate for the Washington Teachers’ Union.

The election of Trump was a concern of Blacks in the legal profession. Both of President Barack Obama’s attorney generals — Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch — were Black. In addition, the Obama administration made an effort to appoint Black judges to the federal bench.

Perry, like many Black leaders in the legal profession, is concerned Trump will ignore Blacks when it comes to filling vacancies. “Let me say that judges of any color are obligated to uphold the law,” he said. “However, we recognize that there has been a systemic and historic lack of Black judges. I am willing to take the president at his word that he will not have a litmus test that is racially and ethnically based.”

Perry said that the association has a longstanding judicial selection committee that recommends its members to the U.S. president on judge and magistrate vacancies in addition to U.S. Attorney positions.

The association has come out against Trump’s travel ban on six majority Muslim countries and on some issues that may impair Blacks advancement in the legal profession, such as the American Bar Association’s proposed Law School Standard 316. This would change the requirement of accreditation for law schools from having 75 percent of its graduates pass a bar exam within five years to two years.

The standard would also seek to eliminate the “gap” standard that allows law schools to demonstrate that their bar passage rate is no more than 15 points below the average first-time bar passage rates for specific jurisdictions.

The association has voiced problems with these proposed changes, saying in a Jan. 31 statement that “these changes will place on undue burden on HBCUs that have made a commitment to supporting and facilitating students of color to attain a legal education and continue to contribute to the legal profession.”

Perry said that the ABA will take up Standard 316 at its annual meeting in New York City.

“It is good when you have a collective group of lawyers that focuses on professional development, enhancing skills and nurturing professionals socially,” Reginald McGahee, a practicing attorney in D.C. told the AFRO. “This is particularly important for African Americans because we are a small part of the larger population of lawyers and we serve as a sounding board for our concerns.”