Renowned Legal Titan, UC Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky to Keynote 2023 PuLSE Affirmative Action and Economic Justice Conference Sept 14

The PuLSE Institute, Detroit’s national and independent anti-poverty think tank, has invited Erwin Chemerinsky, the internationally celebrated legal scholar and the dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law and the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, to serve as a keynote speaker at the institute’s upcoming racial and economic justice conference.

This year’s virtual conference slated for Thursday, September 14, from 9am-1pm will focus on Affirmative Action in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed a crucial program that came out of the Civil Rights Movement. The theme for the national conference is “Unfinished Mandate: Affirmative Action and the Call to Champion Racial Equity and Economic Justice.” 

The September gathering is for policy makers, scholars, major captains of industry and community advocates working towards creating a just society that guarantees equality for all. 

The PuLSE Institute’s speaker forum series in the past has featured a diverse array of speakers such as Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, United Nations Under-Secretary General Dr. Natalia Kanem, Dr. Julius Garvey, the last surviving son of Marcus Garvey, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Mark A. Randon and former U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse. The National Advisory Board of the institute is made up luminaries who collectively bring more than a century of anti-poverty and racial equality commitment to the work of the institute.

Chemerinsky, the esteemed constitutional scholar who was named for the second time in 2017 by National Jurist magazine as the most influential person in legal education in the United States, is among several noted speakers in law, business and government who have been invited to participate in the conference designed to address the future of Affirmative Action in the current national reckoning on racial justice. Other speakers will be announced in the coming days. 

“The Constitution expressly protected the institution of slavery and not once from 1787 until 1865 did the Supreme Court decide a case to protect enslaved persons. It declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which prevented places of public accommodation from discriminating based on race.  From 1896 until 1954, it enforced apartheid with its doctrine of separate but equal,” Chemerinsky said in a statement to The PuLSE Institute ahead of next month’s conference. “The legacy of all of this is a society that is profoundly unequal among the races. Remedying past and current discrimination is impossible if the government has to be color blind in its actions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admission v. President and Fellows of Harvard College is tragically wrong in preventing colleges and universities from using race to benefit people of color.” 

Chemerinsky named in 2022 as the President of the Association of American Law Schools, is the author of sixteen books, including leading casebooks and treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction as well as more than 200 law review articles. His most recent books are Worse than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism (2022) and Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights (2021).

Attorney Tina M. Patterson, the President and Director of Research at The PuLSE Institute underscored the importance of the conference’s theme.

“The recent ruling striking down Affirmative Action is an affront to the notion of equal justice under law, but the arc of the moral universe always bends toward justice,” Patterson said. “As an organization dedicated to racial and economic justice headquartered in Detroit, one of the largest African American cities in the nation, The PuLSE Institute is keenly aware that from the inception of the nation, race has been intertwined with every aspect of society and has negatively impacted African Americans in particular. Laws were formulated and upheld to institute segregation and ensure substandard living, often resulting in the outright denial of critical quality of life advancement in education and employment.”

Patterson added, “At The PuLSE Institute, we are honored to continue moving the needle forward by daring to confront the issues directly toward the ultimate goal of equality. We welcome the keynote address by Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a leading legal scholar who boldly challenges the double standards codified in the law that uphold societal inequality.”

Bankole Thompson the nationally renowned Black journalist and a standard-bearer for racial and economic justice issues, whose longstanding and influential work on race, democracy and poverty led to the founding of The PuLSE Institute five years ago, said the conference will seek to highlight the important work that needs to be done after the Supreme Court ruling. 

“This conference is about tackling inequality which is reflected in the Supreme Court’s terrible decision on Affirmative Action. The gains of the Civil Rights Movement cannot be reversed,” said Thompson, who serves as the executive dean of The PuLSE Institute, and is a twice-a-week opinion columnist at The Detroit News. 

Thompson was recently elected to the National Board of Directors of the historic Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the signature civil rights organization founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who served as its first president, and which led the Civil Rights Movement.

“Affirmative Action is an important indicator of how far our nation is willing to go in addressing historic wrongs done to Black people and other marginalized communities. We cannot pretend as if we are in an equal playing field,” Thompson said. “That is why the presentation that Dean Chemerinsky will give at The PuLSE Institute conference is important. I appreciate his candor and willingness to say what needs to be said at the highest levels of legal education, and in influential places of power in this nation as we continue to march into the palace of democracy insisting that the preamble of the Declaration of Independence be truly applied to all, not just some.”

Registration for the conference will be announced soon. For inquiries email

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