News

Federal Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law

A federal judge ruled today that a voter ID law passed in Texas in 2011 was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, the New York Times reports. The judge had previously made a similar ruling, but the state of Texas appealed her decision and a federal appellate court instructed her to review the issue again.
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Learn the Neuroscience of Decision-Making at the TBA Convention

At the TBA Convention in Kingsport, a special joint Bench/Bar CLE will examine the role neuroscience plays in our decision-making skills and judgment. The session will include exercises, tools and specific strategies for increasing impartiality and integrity in decision-making. The course will identify ways to increase fairness guided by science. The convention will be June 14-17 at the MeadowView Marriott Resort.
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Former Nashville Employee Claims Firing Violated Civil Rights

A former Metro Nashville worker filed suit against the city in federal court today, claiming her civil rights were violated in her firing, the Tennessean reports. Danyelle Bennett is seeking $2 million in damages over her termination, which she said was tied to a November Facebook post in which she posted a graphic in support of President Donald Trump’s victory. In comments about the post, Bennett’s response to one statement included the use of a racial expletive.
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DOJ Changes Course in Voting Rights Case

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday dropped a claim that a strict voter ID law in Texas was enacted with discriminatory intent, according to the ABA Journal. Opponents had argued the restrictions on which IDs were acceptable were intended to benefit Republicans and white voters who tend to support them.The Justice Department said it was dropping the claim to allow time for Texas lawmakers to consider a bill that would allow more types of IDs. A lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs in the case, Danielle Lang, said that the dropped claim "is a complete 180-degree turn."

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Memphis BLSA Raises $100K for Scholarships at Banquet

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the Black Law Students Association hosted an awards banquet last night that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships. Billed as the Inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet, the event was established to create more opportunities for diverse students to pursue a legal education.
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Napier-Looby Bar Foundation Hosts Awards Banquet

The Napier-Looby Bar Foundation’s 13th Annual Barrister’s Banquet and Awards Program will be held Thursday evening. This year’s program will honor Richard Manson with the Z. Alexander Looby Lifetime Achievement Award, Mercedes Mynor-Faulcon with the Justice A. A. Birch Outstanding Service Award and Charles K. Grant and Joycelyn Stevenson with the J. C. Napier Trailblazer Award. The night’s events will be held at the Music City Center in Nashville, and begin with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
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Memphis City Hall ‘Blacklist’ Could Violate Federal Decree

The city of Memphis made public Friday a list of people requiring police escorts when they are in City Hall, an act that may have violated a 1978 federal consent decree banning political surveillance, the Commercial Appeal reports. The list is comprised mostly of prominent political activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently looking into the case.
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Vanderbilt Basketball to Honor Civil Rights Leaders

In honor of Black History Month, the Vanderbilt University basketball team will suit up in special uniforms and recognize 21 local civil rights leaders at a game on Saturday, the Tennessean reports. Several legal luminaries are among the honorees, including Adolpho Birch Jr., George Barrett, Coyness Ennix and Sen. Thelma Harper.
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Right-wing Extremist Will Not Be Labeled ‘Terrorist’

Classifying the crimes of Robert Doggart, the Tennessee man charged with planning to attack a Muslim community in New York, is drawing controversy, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys representing the Muslim community of Islamberg said that Doggart meets the qualifications of domestic terrorism, but federal prosecutors are using nonterrorism charges because the current statutes are largely aimed at foreign radical groups, and not homegrown extremists like South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof or Doggart.
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Memphis Judge Moderates ABA Panel on Batson Decision

Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit moderated a panel reviewing the 30 years of the Batson v. Kentucky decision of 1986. It ruled that a prosecutor’s exercise of race-based peremptory challenges to jurors violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The panelists at the ABA Midyear Meeting event called the ruling a “tremendous failure,” and said that lawyers need to be trained on how to choose a jury without excluding due to race. Read more at the ABA website.
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SCOTUS Will Not Hear Texas Voter ID Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from Texas that seeks to revive the strict voter ID requirements a lower court found had a discriminatory effect on minorities, reports Reuters. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that the 2011 Texas law violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act, and the appeals court directed a federal district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law was actually intended to be discriminatory, rather than merely having a discriminatory effect. A hearing on that case was scheduled for today but has been delayed following a request from President Trump’s administration. 
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Obama Honors Civil Rights Sites with Federal Designations

President Barack Obama signed an order yesterday designating three civil rights related sites as national monuments. They are: a downtown section of Birmingham, Alabama, that includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing; a bus station in Anniston, Alabama, where a group of “freedom riders” were attacked; and the site of a post-Civil War community of freed slaves near Beaufort County, South Carolina. The National Park Service will oversee these new areas as part of the federal park system, National Public Radio reports.

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Report: Law Firm Diversity Slow to Change

A new report by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) indicates that diversity in law firms is moving at an “incredibly slow pace of change.” A review of the report by the ABA Journal indicates that the percentage of female and black associates at law firms increased slightly in 2016, though the representation is still below 2009 levels. The report also found increases in the percentage of female and black partners, as well as increases in Asian and Hispanic lawyers at the partner and associate levels. In releasing the report, NALP Executive Director James Leipold said, “While it is encouraging to see small gains in most areas this year, the incredibly slow pace of change continues to be discouraging.”

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Activist Angela Davis to Visit Memphis

Author, scholar and civil rights activist Angela Davis will be the keynote speaker at a banquet Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Memphis. Davis, 72, is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has lectured across the country and is the author of nine books including, “Women, Race, and Class,” “Are Prisons Obsolete?” and “The Meaning of Freedom.” The event is sponsored by Just City, Rhodes College and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis. Get ticket information on the event Facebook page or read more in the Commercial Appeal.

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Memphis Law Diversity Event Set for February

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the University of Memphis Black Law Students Association will hold its inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet on Feb. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Guest House at Graceland. The event is designed to bring together judges, lawyers, law students and community leaders to highlight a wide array of contributions and achievements made by diverse individuals. Former ABA President and current Leadership Council on Legal Diversity President Robert Grey will deliver the keynote address. Tickets are $50 for students and $100 for all others and can be purchased online.

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Obama Signs Bill to Review Civil Rights-Era Killings

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get a fresh look under legislation signed by President Barack Obama, PBS reports. The measure, signed last week, extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which have been closed for decades. It also provides federal resources to help local jurisdictions look into the cases, extends the time frame of cases to be considered and requires the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on these deaths.

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Memphis NAACP Director Retires

Madeline Taylor, who has served for more than two decades with the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, retired last week, WREG reports. Taylor worked as a social worker and a teacher, as a Memphis City Council member and in a number of corporate roles before being named director of the Memphis chapter. She had been involved informally with the organization for some 20 years. “I've worked on issues as far as criminal justice, police department, housing, healthcare,” Taylor said. “It's been very much a part of my life, my family's life for a long time, so it has been hard to say goodbye.”

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Nashville Lawyer Named to National Latina Commission

Nashville attorney Alé Dalton has been chosen to serve on the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Latina Commission, which studies and recommends remedies for barriers to advancement faced by Latina lawyers. Dalton is one of nine delegates chosen nationwide. Her term will run through September 2017. Dalton serves on the healthcare team at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, assisting clients with a wide range of transactional, operational and regulatory matters with a focus on healthcare mergers and acquisitions. Read more from the firm.

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Incidents of Harassment, Intimidation Up After Election

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there have been almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation since the election of Donald Trump. “People have experienced harassment at school, at work, at home, on the street, in public transportation, in their cars, in grocery stores and other places of business, and in their houses of worship," the group writes in its report “10 Days After.” Incidents against Trump supporters also have been reported.

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Alabama Gets 1st African-American Female DA

The vote margin on election night was so narrow it triggered an automatic recount, but it is now official: Lynneice Washington will be the first African-American woman elected as a district attorney in Alabama. “This is a historic moment,” said Washington, who currently serves as presiding judge of the Bessemer Municipal Court. She defeated Republican Bill Veitch, who was appointed to the post following retirement of the former district attorney. AL.com has more on the race.

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Knoxville Event to Explore ‘Gavel Gap’ Issues

The Knoxville Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society is hosting an event next Tuesday to discuss the so-called “Gavel Gap” – the differences between the race and gender composition of the courts and the communities they serve. Federal District Court Judge Pamela L. Reeves will lead the discussion. Heavy appetizers and drinks will be provided. The event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Knoxville Collective, 923 North Central St., Knoxville 37917. RSVP online.

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Implicit Bias Conference Draws 150+ in Memphis

The University of Memphis School of Law played host to more than 150 attendees today for a program called “Implicit (Unconscious) Bias: A New Look at an Old Problem.” Panelists explored the social science of implicit bias; examined the manifestations of bias in education, law enforcement, the media and business; and offered thoughts on a way forward. For more on the program visit the school's website.

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Lipscomb Renames Institute to Honor Fred Gray

Lipscomb University celebrated the renaming of its Institute for Law, Justice & Society in honor of civil rights attorney Fred Gray at a gala dinner Saturday in Nashville. Gray argued and won landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court four times before he was 30 and represented clients like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Among those reflecting on Gray's legacy at the event were Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. See photos from the event.

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Nashville Library Hosts Civil Rights Icon

The Nashville Public Library is hosting civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis for a public lecture and book signing Nov. 19. The free event is open to the public and will take place at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School, 613 17th Ave. N. Lewis has been named the 2016 Nashville Public Library Literary Award Honoree. His three-part book “March” is a vivid firsthand account of his lifelong struggle for civil rights and human rights. The first book in the trilogy will be the 2017 Nashville Reads selection. Volunteers are needed to help with the event. Sign up here to help out.

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Memphis Law Hosts Implicit Bias Conference

The University of Memphis School of Law is hosting a conference on implicit bias next Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event “A New Look at an Old Problem” will explore what implicit bias is, how it operates, how to recognize it and how to manage its influence. Speakers include U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice B. Donald, District Court Judge Jon P. McCalla, Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan H. Michael, immediate past ABA President Paulette Brown and a host of law professors from across the country. See the full program or register online.

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