October 2013

AZA’s Paloma Zepeda Helps Maryland Black Colleges Win Federal Ruling Against Policies Favoring White Schools

HOUSTON – Attorney Paloma Zepeda of Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, recently helped Maryland’s historically black colleges win a federal ruling that the state must change education policies that give predominantly white state universities an unfair advantage.

The Oct. 7 ruling by Judge Catherine C. Blake in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland found that the state hadn’t done enough to prevent white institutions from duplicating programs, leaving minority schools with few unique offerings. Such policies, the judge concluded, lead to “segregative effects.”

Judge Blake ruled that the state must correct the problem and urged the parties to enter mediation. She said further proceedings would be held if mediation is unsuccessful.

The suit was filed in 2006 on behalf of students and alumni for historically black Bowie State, Coppin State and Morgan State universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The plaintiffs alleged violations of civil rights law and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The case was tried in Baltimore in 2012.

Ms. Zepeda, who participated in the case pro bono while working at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C., was involved in pretrial preparation of named plaintiffs and working with plaintiffs’ remedy expert before and during trial. She also worked on post-trial briefing and preparation for closing arguments.

“I’m proud that I contributed to this noble effort, and I’m particularly pleased that the court agreed with the plaintiffs on the critical issue of program duplication,” Ms. Zepeda says.

The team was led by Michael D. Jones of Kirkland & Ellis and Jon M. Greenbaum of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The case is The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al.

Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, securities fraud, construction and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms in the 2013 listing of the nation’s leading law firms. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000. AZA has been hired on many occasions by the same companies the firm has prevailed against at trial. Read more at http://www.azalaw.com.