News

Belmont Student Receives Birch Scholarship

Second-year Belmont University College of Law student Orlando Jarmaine Watson has received the 2014 Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr. Memorial Scholarship. The award will support Watson’s judicial internship this summer with Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Mark J. Fishburn. The scholarship is supported by the Adolpho A. Birch Jr. Legal Education Fund as a way to honor the late justice's commitment to academic excellence, public service and diversity in the legal and judicial professions. Watson is a member of the school’s American Inn of Court, Legal Aid Society and Black Law Student Organization, and coordinator of the Street Law Project. Read more in this press release from the Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation.

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KBA Hosts Minority Law Student Reception Sept. 30

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) has partnered with the University of Tennessee College of Law and the LMU Duncan School of Law to host its annual Minority Law Student Reception. This year’s event will take place Sept. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at The Southern Depot, 318 W. Depot Ave. in downtown Knoxville. Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League will be the guest speaker. RSVP online or by calling (865) 522-6522 by Sept. 29. Law students interested in being paired with a practicing lawyer for the event should contact the KBA by Sept. 15.

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Austin Peay Hosts Civil Rights Films in September

Austin Peay State University in Clarksville will host four documentaries on the history of civil rights in America during the month of September. The films, which will screen at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights, are part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ program “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle.” The initiative is designed to encourage discussions of America’s civil rights history. With each film, the university will host a forum and discussion. The films are The Abolitionists, Sept. 9; The Loving Story, Sept. 16; Freedom Riders, Sept. 23; and Slavery by Another Name, Sept. 30. Learn more in Business & Heritage Clarksville.

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Court Rules University Can Consider Race in Admissions

In a case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, a Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled yesterday that the University of Texas can continue using race as a factor in undergraduate admissions, the Associated Press reports. The judges voted 2-1 that barring the university from using race would ultimately lead to a less diverse student body in defiance of previous legal precedent that promoting diversity was an important part of education.

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Remembering the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's signing into law of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most significant civil rights achievements in U.S. history. The new law made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended school, work and public facility discrimination, and barred unequal application of voter registration requirements. In observing the law's 50th anniversary, President Barack Obama said "few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully." WKRN has more from the Associated Press. Learn about lawyers’ roles in the Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee from this 2010 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal.

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‘Soundtrack for a Revolution’ Screening Wednesday

The Nashville Public Library will show the documentary “Soundtrack for a Revolution” tomorrow from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The film celebrates freedom songs and explores how these anthems had the power to sustain the civil rights movement during its darkest hours. It is a unique mix of archival footage, interviews with civil rights leaders and musical performances from artists such as John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean and The Roots.

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Civil Rights 50th Anniversary Celebration July 9

The YWCA is urging Tennesseans to take a stand against racism and join the organization as it celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, District Attorney-elect Glenn Funk and others will speak at noon on July 9 at the Church Street Park, 600 Church St. Live music, food trucks and ice cream will be available.

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Number of Black Lawyers in 'BigLaw' Firms Falls

According to a new American Lawyer survey, only 3 percent of lawyers and 1.9 percent of partners at large law firms are African American. While the percentage of all minorities increased slightly last year at the 223 law firms polled, the number of black lawyers fell to its lowest level since 2000. Asian-Americans are now the largest group of minorities in law firms, comprising 6.3 percent of the lawyers and 2.7 percent of the partners. The next largest group is Hispanics, which account for 3.2 percent of the lawyers and 2.3 percent of the partners. The ABA Journal has the story.

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ABA Under Fire for Underrating Female, Minority Judicial Candidates

The American Bar Association is coming under fire for allegedly rating women and minority judicial candidates lower than white men, MSNBC reports. Maya Sen, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester, recently published a study finding that even when women and minority candidates have similar qualifications to their white male peers, the ABA committee gives them lower ratings. ABA President James R. Silkenat disputed Sen's findings, writing in a letter to the New York Times that Sen "dusted off Mad Men-era data” and "wrongly places blame for this serious problem with the American Bar Association’s nonpartisan process to evaluate the professional qualifications of potential judicial nominees."

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Birmingham Bombing Attorneys Speak in Knoxville on Civil Rights

Former Attorney General Bill Baxley and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones — the prosecutors responsible for bringing justice in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls — told a Knoxville audience that the fight for civil rights is still a work in progress, WBIR reports. Baxley and Jones spoke at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church on Friday as part of the city's ongoing commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Tenn. House Votes to Express Regret for Slavery, Trail of Tears

The state House has voted to express "profound regret" for slavery and segregation in Tennessee, but stopped short of an outright apology. The chamber voted 97-0 in favor of the resolution sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mike Turner of Nashville, but the Republican-controlled chamber removed language from the original resolution that sought to offer "profound apologies" for slavery. The slavery measure followed the unanimous approval earlier in the session of a resolution expressing regret for the forced removal of more than 15,000 Native Americans in the 1830s. The Trail of Tears resolution was later approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam yesterday. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more from the Associated Press.

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Firm Awards Diversity Scholarships to 2 in Tennessee

Two Tennessee law students have earned diversity scholarships from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and will clerk at the firm’s Nashville office this summer. Vanderbilt Law School student Monique A. Hannam and University of Tennessee College of Law student Racquel B. Martin were selected to be a part of the program, which promotes the education of well-qualified law students who reflect the diversity of the legal marketplace and who are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.

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Constangy, Brooks & Smith Announces 2014 Diversity Scholar

Charmarcus Floyd Sr. of Nashville is the recipient of the 2014 Diversity Scholars Award presented by national labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith LLP. Floyd, a second-year student at Belmont University College of Law, will receive a $2,000 scholarship in recognition of his accomplishments in academics, his commitment to diversity in the community, school or work environment, and his personal achievements in overcoming challenges to reach his goals. Constangy initiated the award program to recognize deserving law students and help defray the expense of law school, while promoting diversity in the legal profession.

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Memphis Law Hosts Symposium on Tuskegee Study

The University of Memphis Health Law Institute will host its inaugural Health Law Symposium April 3-4. The theme of the two-day event is Race, Research, and Rights: The Legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The program will feature two special guests: civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who brought a class action suit on behalf of syphilis study survivors, and James Jones, author of Bad Blood, an account of the study. The event will kick off with the screening of a documentary and an informal discussion with Gray and Jones on Thursday night. On Friday, sessions will cover how the study continues to impact ethnic and racial minorities in research and treatment settings.

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Legacy of Adolpho A. Birch Remembered

The Tennessean recognizes Black History Month by remembering the legacy of Adolpho A. Birch Jr., who became the first black chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Born in Washington, D.C., Birch earned his bachelors and law degrees from Howard University before moving to Nashville where he taught at Meharry Medical College, Fisk University and Tennessee State University, while maintaining a private law practice. In 1969, Birch was named a General Sessions court judge, becoming the first black Tennessean to serve in a countywide office. Elected by his fellow justices as chief justice in 1994, Birch became the first person to serve at every judicial level in Tennessee.

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Knoxville Marks 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act

The City of Knoxville is hosting a citywide celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. One of the planned events is a free brown bag lunch Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event, which will take place in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building, will feature a panel discussion on the topic “Voting, Voting Statistics and Districting." Speakers include state Rep. Joe Armstrong, City of Knoxville Deputy Mayor Bill Lyons and former mayor Daniel Brown. The panel will be led by moderator Robert Booker, a former state representative and Knoxville city councilman, and current executive director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. For more information, please contact Joshalyn Hundley, (865) 215-3867.

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Napier-Looby Banquet Honors TSU Professor

Nashville’s Napier-Looby Bar Foundation on Thursday will honor Tennessee State University (TSU) professor Robert Smith for his efforts to help black students, the Tennessean reports. Smith, who teaches constitutional and criminal law at TSU and has coached the school’s mock trial team since its inception, will receive the Z. Alexander Looby Lifetime Achievement Award at the organization's annual banquet and award ceremony. Three other attorneys also will be recognized during the banquet. They are Sheila Calloway of the Davidson County Juvenile Court, attorney Cynthia Fitzgerald and Jerrilyn Manning of the Nashville public defender’s office.

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'Scandal' Lawyer to Keynote Memphis Law Event

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will host a Diversity and Pre-Law Day Feb. 21 from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. as part of the university’s ongoing commitment to diversity in the legal profession. Judy Smith, former press aide to President George H.W. Bush and current president of Smith & Co., a leading strategic and crisis communications firm, will give the keynote address. Smith is the inspiration behind the hit television drama “Scandal.” With this year’s theme of “Planning for Success,” participants will receive tips on preparing for law school, submitting a competitive application and applying for financial aid and scholarships. For more information contact Brigitte Boyd.

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White House Touts Diversity in Judicial Nominations

President Barack Obama today nominated five lawyers for trial and appellate courts, including a state judge in Florida who would be the first openly gay male African-American on the federal bench. According to the National Law Journal, the White House is touting the nominations as part of Obama’s effort to expand the gender and racial diversity of the nation’s courts. The White House today published an updated graphic that spotlights Obama’s judicial nominations to date.

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Legislator Calls TSU President’s Speech 'Racist'

Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, walked out of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day banquet hosted by the Dickson County NAACP after what he calls “racist” remarks by Tennessee State University President Dr. Brenda Glover. Glover, who earned a law degree from Georgetown University, described a “selfish government and cruel electorate” that she said has shown disdain for President Barack Obama because of his skin color. At that point, Summerville said, he got up and left. In an interview Monday night with the Tennessean, he described that portion of Glover’s speech as bigoted and false. Glover disputed the characterization and said she has reached out to Summerville to discuss it.

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Proposed Legislation Targets Racial Profiling

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on Friday proposed legislation aimed at addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, WREG reports. The new laws would identify cases of racial profiling and penalize those responsible for it. Cohen is asking U.S. Attorneys to examine racial profiling in their areas and engage their communities to find ways to eliminate it. A panel of prosecutors, defenders, civil rights, and faith-based leaders would be asked for input. “Law enforcement officers do a great service and we need them so much but they need to spend their time based on actual probable cause and not racial stereotypes,” Cohen said.

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Community Leader to Keynote Waller MLK Tribute

Waller law firm will host its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day tribute luncheon on Jan. 16 at the Doubletree Hotel with community leader Francis S. Guess as the keynote speakers. The theme of Guess' remarks is "It's Our Turn," as it relates to building upon King's legacy to foster equality throughout the Middle Tennessee business community. At the event, Waller will also recognize its annual diversity scholarship recipient, Alejandra Dalton, a student at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Digital Journal has more.

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Lack of Diversity a 'Huge Danger,' Justice Says

The lack of diversity in race, gender and background poses a “huge danger” to the judiciary, both federal and state, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Tuesday during a speech at American University Washington College of Law. She also slammed the legal profession for perpetuating the glass ceiling, asserting that the number of minority partners in law firms is "dismally small,” the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Law school faculties are also lacking in diversity, according to Vanderbilt University Law School professor Tracey E. George and Toronto law professor Albert H. Yoon, who co-authored a forthcoming article for the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. They found that law school faculties aren’t nearly as diverse as their student bodies, due to the small field from which professors are hired. Seventy-five percent of all applicants hired by law schools attended a top 50, Tier 1 school, and the majority of those hires came from just three schools: Harvard, Yale or Stanford. The Wall Street Journal law blog has more.

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Constangy Announces 2013 Law Student Scholarship

Constangy, Brooks & Smith, with offices in Nashville, has announced the application process for its 2013 Diversity Scholars Awards. Each year, the firm selects one student based on academic success, commitment to diversity and personal achievement in overcoming challenges. To be eligible for the award, applicants must be second-year law students with a 3.0 or greater GPA and be enrolled in an accredited law school in Tennessee or any other state where the firm has offices. The successful applicant will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Applications are available on the firm’s website and are due by Dec. 11. The winner will be announced in January. Contact Meg Zabijaka with any questions.

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Law Prof: Affirmative Action Needs to Stay in Place

Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy tackles the complex issue of affirmative action in his book “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.” According to Kennedy, affirmative action needs to stay in place in order to rectify, at least partially, the continued injuries that put certain racial minorities at a competitive disadvantage with their white peers. “Despite wide-ranging attacks against affirmative action,” Kennedy writes, “it has, remarkably, continued to survive.” That may be, arguably, because it’s sometimes “justified as a means” of reparation, diversity and integration, and “countering ongoing racial prejudice.” The Nashville Ledger has more.

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