News

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

'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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

LMU Black Law Student Association Hosts Academic Retreat

The Black Law Student Association at Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law will host “Pushing Progress through the Pipeline” an academic retreat Oct. 18-19 at the DSOL Campus in Knoxville. Pre-law students, current and graduating students, as well as recent graduates are encouraged to attend. For more information, download the retreat schedule or contact Aisha DeBerry.

read more »

Group Charges Bank of America With Discrimination in Memphis

A complaint from the National Fair Housing Alliance  alleges Bank of America discriminated against minority neighborhoods and property owners in Memphis in the way it handled bank-owned properties. The complaint, filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, charges that Bank of America failed to maintain and market properties in minority neighborhoods, while giving special treatment to its homes in predominantly white neighborhoods. Bank of America has denied the allegations, the Memphis Daily News reports.

read more »

Law Students Meet With Firms at TBA Diversity Job Fair

Lawyers from across the state met with prospective employees during the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair in Nashville this past weekend. During the two-day event at the Tennessee Bar Center, more than 60 students from the state's six law schools and schools in surrounding states learned from and interviewed with Tennessee law firms and government agencies. See photos from the event.

read more »

3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair Held in Nashville

More than 60 students from law schools across the region interviewed with Tennessee law firms and government agencies during the third annual TBA Diversity Job Fair, Aug. 23-24, at the Tennessee Bar Center. The event began with a panel discussion on how to find a job in the current market and was followed by a networking reception and a full day of interviews.

read more »

Job Fair: Matching Firms With Diverse Law Students

More than 60 law students from across the country are interviewing with Tennessee firms this weekend as part of the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair at the Tennessee Bar Center. The two-day event, sponsored by the TBA's Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, kicks off today with an educational session on "Finding a Job in the Current Market" and a networking reception. On Saturday, 17 Tennessee law firms and agencies will conduct interviews throughout the day for both summer associate and full-time positions. Of the 22 law schools sending students to the job fair, most are in Tennessee and surrounding states, although students are coming from as far away as Louisana and Texas.

read more »

Judge Ponders Remaining Issues in Schools Suit

With voters in the six suburbs of Memphis all approving the formation of municipal schools districts, Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays wants to hear from all sides in a pending lawsuit challenging the suburbs’ authority to create those districts, the Memphis Daily News reports. Mays asked the parties to present any remaining issues and argue their positions on two points: whether a 2013 law that lifted the ban on municipal districts statewide effectively ends the need for a ruling in the case, and whether the creation of suburban districts violates the Equal Protection Clause. Attorneys for Shelby County have argued that new suburban schools would racially resegregate public education in the area. Suburban leaders have denied that will happen.

read more »

Minority Law Student Reception to Offer New Buddy Program

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA), the University of Tennessee College of Law and the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law invite area lawyers and law students to their annual Minority Law Student Reception. The event will take place Sept. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at The Southern Depot, 318 W. Depot Ave. Curtis L. Collier, U.S. District Judge Eastern District of Tennessee, will be the guest speaker. The KBA also announced a “Buddy Match Program” to pair practicing lawyers with minority law students who plan to attend. To participate in the Buddy Program RSVP to (865) 522-6522 by Sept. 15. Others should respond by Sept. 19.

read more »

Judge McMullen Makes Historic First

Judge Camille R. McMullen became the first African American woman to preside over a panel of an appellate court proceeding in the state of Tennessee this week. McMullen, of Shelby County, presided over the August term of the Court of Appeals, Western Section in Jackson on Tuesday. “Judge McMullen has proven herself to be a respected colleague and it was time that this barrier was broken,” Judge Thomas Woodall of Dixon said in a press release. “Today is a good day for the state of Tennessee and the judicial system.” Judge McMullen first made history in 2008 becoming the first African American woman to serve on a state appellate court. The AOC announced the news today.

read more »

Law Prof: LSAT Not to Blame for Lack of Minority Lawyers

University of Virginia School of Law professor Alex Johnson Jr. argues that blame for the underrepresentation of minorities in the legal profession is misplaced, the National Law Journal reports. Instead of identifying the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as a major barrier to black and Hispanic law school applicants, Johnson writes in the latest edition of the Stanford Law & Policy Review that the real reason is because these students tend to “misapply” to law schools that are unlikely to admit them because of their grades and LSAT scores. He also says a disproportionate percentage of minority law grads take the bar exam in states with the toughest pass cutoffs. Other legal educators took Johnson’s conclusions with a grain of salt. “I don’t think that this ‘misapplication’ alone can explain the large number of shutouts that occur,” said John Nussbaumer, an associate dean at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School who has researched the correlation between LSAT scores and the admission of minority applicants.

read more »

KBA Plans Annual Supreme Court Dinner

Each year, the Knoxville Bar Association hosts a dinner to pay tribute to the justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court as well as the local judiciary. This year’s event will be Sept. 4 at the newly renovated Holiday Inn World's Fair Park. Free parking is available in the hotel garage. The event begins with a reception in the Sundries Courtyard at 6 p.m., followed by dinner in the Grand Pavilion at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 each and tables of 10 may be reserved in advance. This year’s dinner will feature Birmingham attorney Freddy Rubio and his wife Isabel, who have been at the forefront of advocacy for the Hispanic community. Read more about the Rubios in the KBA’s monthly magazine DICTA.

read more »