News

UT Law Will Promote Diversity Through New Position

Katrice W. Jones Morgan was named the University of Tennessee College of Law’s first director of diversity and inclusion. The new position was created as part of Dean Melanie D. Wilson’s initiative to promote diversity at UT Law. Morgan has worked at the College of Law since 2007, previously serving as assistant dean for student affairs before beginning her new role on Aug. 1.

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President Urges Lawmakers to Re-establish Voting Rights Act

President Barack Obama is urging lawmakers to re-establish elements of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, WCYB reports. "Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier -- not harder -- for more Americans to have their voices heard," Obama wrote in a letter to the New York Times Magazine. Obama's letter comes after the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act last week. 

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EJU Registration Closes Next Wednesday

Registration for the 2015 Equal Justice University (EJU) conference will close next Wednesday. Attendees will hear from national speakers such as Eric Carlson, with Justice in Aging; the National Employment Law Project's Rebecca Dixon; Camille Holmes with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; and Georgetown University law professor David Super. EJU is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association.

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Young Lawyers Earn 3 National Awards

The TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) was honored at the American Bar Association YLD meeting in Chicago Saturday with three Awards of Achievement. The group took second place in the diversity category for a program it held last March to help diverse law students refine their resumes and prepare for job interviews. It also received the second place award in the “comprehensive” category, which recognizes all projects and activities from the past bar year. Finally, the YLD received a special recognition award for its Access to Justice Week Legal Clinic Initiative – a statewide service project that produced 14 free legal clinics and educational seminars for Tennesseans.

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Traditional Law Firm Model Not Effective in Offering Women Positions of Power

While the gender landscape in the legal industry is certainly changing, there is an undeniable amount of work to be done to elevate women to positions of power in law, according to Inside Counsel. The law firm model has been culturally and professionally established by men, the article says, so there has naturally been a slow-moving course toward matriculating women into it, and making it one driven by both sexes. “Law firms can help by teaching their partners about implicit bias and its impact on staffing and promotion decisions and providing training for them to find ways to overcome the effects of this bias on the career development of women (and minorities),” says Cynthia A. Bergmann, chair of the executive committee of Chicago-based firm Freeborn & Peters LLP.

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Shelby to Honor D’Army Bailey With Courthouse Naming

The Shelby County Civil Courthouse will be renamed the D’Army Bailey Courthouse, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Shelby County Commission voted 11-0 this afternoon to rename the courthouse in honor of the late circuit court judge and founder of the National Civil Rights Museum.

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Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed for Charleston Church Shooter

Federal hate crime charges were filed today against Dylann Roof in the racially charged Charleston church massacre that shook the country, according to court documents. The 21-year-old Roof is accused of killing nine black worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. WATE has the story from ABC.

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Shelby Commission to Consider Honor for Bailey

Ten days after Judge Bailey's death, the Shelby County Commission is poised to honor the civil rights trailblazer by naming the Shelby County Courthouse after him. A committee of the commission approved the measure this week. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Monday, WMC News 5 reports. Bailey died on July 12. He was 73 years old.

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Groups Call for Eliminating Bias in Justice System

ABA President William C. Hubbard and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, write in Monday’s National Law Journal that the country must address the “crisis of confidence” threatening the integrity of the criminal justice system. The pair lay out 12 specific recommendations for confronting and eliminating racial biases in the system.

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Black Lawyers Group Wants Members to Take on Brutality Cases

The National Bar Association is calling on black lawyers to advocate for victims and protesters of police brutality by representing them in civil cases and pushing for reforms of the criminal justice system. Prominent black leaders in the legal community told hundreds of lawyers at the group’s annual convention in Los Angeles this week that they should take more civil cases and advocate for both legislation and politicians who support reducing police brutality incidents. The National Law Journal has more (sub. req.).

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Senate Approves 1st Latina Judge for D.C. Appeals Court

After a lengthy nomination process, the U.S. Senate has voted to approve Kara Farnandez Stoll as the first Latina judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, according to the Latin Post. Stoll was nominated by President Obama in November 2014 but was not approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee until this past April. The vote of the full Senate last week was unanimous, though five members did not participate.

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State Won’t Block View of Confederate Statue

The state of Tennessee will not plant trees and shrubs to hide a statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Tennessean reports. Nashville’s Metro Council had made the request to hide the statue next to Interstate 65 from passing motorists. The statue depicts Forrest on horseback, surrounded by Confederate flags.

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Law Prof’s Dim View of Atticus Finch Vindicated 23 Years Later

A Hofstra University law professor who was attacked for his appraisal of the fictional lawyer Atticus Finch 20 years ago is being vindicated by this week's publication of Harper Lee's “Go Set a Watchman.” In her "new" novel, written before "To Kill a Mockingbird," but only now published, Lee has Finch defending segregationist propaganda and deriding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Read more from the National Law Journal, which also published the original column from professor Monroe Freedman.

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Non-Discrimination Ordinance Language Amended

The Chattanooga city council has amended a pending non-discrimination ordinance to remove the phrase "gender expression" and added definitions for terms that some found confusing or problematic. The move comes after the council took comments from the public on both sides of the issue. The proposed ordinance would explicitly prohibit the harassment and discrimination of city employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Chattanoogan reports.

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Tennessee Man Charged with Planning Mosque Attack

An East Tennessee man who ran for Congress last year has been indicted on a charge of soliciting another person to burn down a mosque in a small Muslim enclave in New York, federal prosecutors said this week. Robert Doggart had agreed to plead guilty in April to plotting an attack, but the agreement was thrown out in June by a federal judge who ruled it did not contain enough facts to constitute a true threat. The new indictment by a grand jury in Knoxville says Doggart tried to "solicit, command, induce and endeavor" to persuade someone to burn down the mosque. The Times Union has more from the AP.

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South Carolina to Remove Confederate Flag

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley today signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds at 10 a.m. tomorrow and place it in the state’s Confederate Relic Room. The push to remove the flag began after state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others were gunned down during a Bible study inside a historic black church. Police said the shooting was racially motivated and photographs have emerged showing the suspect posing with the flag. WKRN has more.

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Confederate Flag Bill Advances to South Carolina House

In a required third vote, South Carolina’s state senators voted 36-3 today to remove the Confederate battle flag from its prominent place on the Statehouse grounds. The House will now take up the issue, perhaps as early as Wednesday, National Public Radio reports. News reports today indicated that a number of lawmakers may offer proposals to replace the flag with different banners, but the House majority leader said he did not know whether any of them had enough support to pass.

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Lawmaker Slows Effort to Remove Forrest Bust

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick tells the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he plans to slow the effort to remove a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee capitol so “a calmer discussion” can take place. McCormick said he still favors removing the statue and intends to talk about it when the State Capitol Commission meets July 17 but that recent “hysteria” over Confederate symbols needs to be replaced with “a calm, reasonable discussion.”

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UT Law Student Receives National Scholarship

University of Tennessee College of Law student Casey Duhart is one of only two recipients nationwide of a prestigious diversity scholarship, the school reports. The 2015 Law Student Diversity Scholarship from the Defense Research Institute (DRI) provides $10,000 toward law school expenses. Duhart will serve as the first black editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Law Review this coming year. She is also a recent graduate of the TBA's Diversity Leadership Institute.

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South Carolina Senate Votes to Remove Confederate Flag

The South Carolina State Senate voted 37-3 today to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds. It is the second of three votes needed in the Senate before the bill goes to the state House. The final Senate vote is set for Tuesday, according to CNN. Observers suggest that the effort may face a tougher road in the House where powerful legislators, including Speaker Jay Lucas, have not yet said how they will vote.

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Supreme Court Backs Fair Housing Case

The Supreme Court today ruled that claims of racial discrimination in housing cases shouldn't be limited by questions of intent, National Public Radio reports. The court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision in a case in which a nonprofit group, the Inclusive Communities Project, said that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had contributed to "segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods." The 5-4 ruling endorses the notion of citing disparate impact in housing cases, meaning that statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects — without proving that they're the result of discriminatory intentions.

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Nashville Library Hosts 1964 'Freedom Summer' Video and Discussion

The public is invited to attend a screening of selected excerpts from the award winning film “Freedom Summer” by Stanley Nelson and a conversation with Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Dr. C.T. Vivian on how the ideas and practices from the summer of 1964 still echo today. The free event will be July 11 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Nashville Main Library, 615 Church St. For more information, contact Andrea Blackman

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Alabama Civil Rights Lawyer to Speak in Chattanooga

The Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga will hold it eighth annual First Amendment Dinner July 14 at 6 p.m. at the Jewish Cultural Center, 5461 N. Terrace Rd., the Chattanoogan reports. The keynote speaker will be Morris Dees, Alabama attorney and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The cost is $12 before July 9. RSVP to (423) 493-0270 ext. 10 or by email

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Fred Gray to Speak Thursday in Nashville

Veteran civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray will speak this Thursday at Lipscomb University as part of the 2015 Law Camp. The camp, which is sponsored by the TBA and the university’s Institute for Law, Justice & Society, brings high school students from across the country to Nashville for a week of programs on historical and currently relevant legal issues. This year’s camp is focused on the development of key freedoms and the concept of equality under the law, with a special focus on the Civil Rights Movement. Gray, who represented Rosa Parks in her fight for equality in Montgomery, Alabama, and was Dr. Martin Luther King’s first lawyer, will speak at 6 p.m. in Swang Chapel of the Ezell Center. The event is open to the public.

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Firm Recognized for Work in Building Diversity in Profession

Law is the least diverse profession in the nation, author and law professor Debrorah Rhode writes in the Washington Post. She cites U.S Bureau of Labor statistics showing 88 percent of lawyers are white, opposed to 81 percent of architects and engineers, 78 percent of accountants and 72 percent of physicians and surgeons. Some firms are working to change that. In Nashville, Dickinson Wright PLLC was recently honored for its commitment to improving diversity within the profession, particularly in its summer/associate hiring. The Nashville Bar Association recognized the firm with its Diversity Committee 2015 Sponsorship Award at the NBA’s Annual Law Day Luncheon.

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