News

Ginsburg Says Push for Voter ID Laws is Predictable

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she is not surprised that Southern states have pushed ahead with tough voter identification laws and other measures since the Supreme Court freed them from strict federal oversight of their elections. In an interview with The Associated Press, Ginsburg said that Texas' decision to implement its voter ID law hours after the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last month was powerful evidence of an ongoing need to keep states with a history of voting discrimination from making changes in the way they hold elections without getting advance approval from Washington. “The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn't make any sense to me," Ginsburg said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her office at the court. "And one really could have predicted what was going to happen."

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DOJ to Challenge Voting Rights Act Ruling

In response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling invalidating key parts of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is asking a federal court in San Antonio to require the state of Texas to obtain advance approval before putting in place future political redistricting or other voting changes. Holder called the Voting Rights Act "the cornerstone of modern civil rights law" and said that "we cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve." WRCB has the story.

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TBA Wins Top Awards for Programming

The Tennessee Bar Association today was recognized with two of the top awards from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives. The TBA’s Diversity Job Fair was named an Award of Excellence recipient and the association’s statewide series on Balancing Civility & Free Expression was named winner of the Associations Advance Tennessee Award. The TBA’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity worked with TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer to produce the job fair, while TBA Public Education Coordinator Liz Todaro worked with the Public Education Committee to produce the civility series. “These programs have both well supported and well received by the Tennessee legal community,” TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said, “but it is also gratifying to receive this recognition from our peers in the association world.”

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ABA Honoring Judge It Once Opposed

Alabama's first black federal judge, U.W. Clemon of Birmingham, will be honored next month by the ABA despite the fact that the group opposed his appointment 33 years ago, WKRN reports. The ABA is scheduled to give its 2013 John H. Pickering Award to Clemon, who is now retired, at its annual meeting in San Francisco. Clemon said he was gratified to be selected for the award and that it showed how far the association had come. President Jimmy Carter nominated Clemon in 1980, and he was approved by the U.S. Senate though the ABA found at the time that he was unqualified.

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State NAACP Speaks Against Supreme Court Decision

The Tennessee Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) spoke out yesterday at City Hall in Jackson against the U.S. Supreme Court decision to do away with Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. That section required states and localities with a history of discrimination to submit their election laws to the Justice Department for approval. Although Tennessee election laws were not subject to  Justice Department reviews, Tennessee Conference of NAACP President Gloria Sweet-Love said it is important to guard the rights of a few to protect the rights of all. Read more from the Jackson Sun.

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Bar Passage Proposal Alarms Diversity Advocates

The National Bar Association, the largest association of black lawyers and judges, is opposing a proposal to increase the ABA’s minimum bar-passage rate for law schools from 75 to 85 percent, the National Law Journal reports. “Any undertaking of a change to law school accreditation standards must include a thorough consideration of any potential impact the change may have on students of color," U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote in a letter to the ABA last week. "Otherwise, such a change may only exacerbate the lack of diversity within the legal profession."


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Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court today struck down a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that establishes a formula to identify states that may require extra scrutiny by the Justice Department regarding voting procedures, NPR reports. Read additional commentary on the case leading up to the decision from Scotusblog.

Study Details Obstacles Confronting Minority Law Students

Diversity may be a priority for some law schools, but minority law students still face a harder road to a juris doctor than their white counterparts, according to an article in the latest edition of the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy. 
"Measuring Racial Uneveness of Law School" concludes that minority law students face additional hurdles as a result of the structure of law school, the relatively small number of minority students and faculty on law campuses, and racial bias. 
The National Law Journal has the story.

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Top Law Firms Ranked According to Diversity

The American Lawyer surveyed the country’s largest and highest-grossing law firms and ranked them according to their percentage of minority attorneys and partners. Of the 228 firms ranked, Memphis-based Baker Donelson and Nashville’s Bass Berry and Sims came in at numbers 167 and 190, respectively.

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Friday is Deadline for Employers to Join Diversity Job Fair

Tennessee legal employers planning to participate in the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair have until Friday to register to participate. There are also sponsorship opportunities available for firms that wish to participate in that way. More than 30 law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states have signed up to participate in the job fair set for Aug. 23-24 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. The event provides legal employers in Tennessee the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students for summer associate positions, clerkships and associate attorney positions. To learn more, sign up online or email TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer or call her at (615) 383-7421. The TBA Diversity Job Fair is an initiative of the TBA Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

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Memphis Law Honors BLSA Students

The University of Memphis School of Law recently honored eight African American students who graduated this month. The special ceremony, known as The Kenneth Cox Ceremony, recognizes each graduating Black Law Student Association (BLSA) member for his or her contribution to the law school’s academic, cultural and professional environments. The ceremony is named in honor of one of the law school’s first African-American graduates, Kenneth Maurice Cox. This year’s honorees are Angela Harris, Shalondra Pickford, Courtney Smith, Laura Smittick-James, William Terrell II, Kenneth Walker II, Natasha Wells and Thomas Williams.

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Memphis Law Professor, Program Honored

University of Memphis School of Law professor Lee Harris has been named among the most influential minority law professors in the nation by the magazine Lawyers of Color. Harris has taught at the school since 2005 in the areas of contracts, corporations and mergers and acquisitions. Before joining the Memphis faculty, he worked at Baker Donelson in Memphis. Harris earned his law degree from Yale and was a visiting student at the London School of Economics. The publication also recently recognized the school's Tennessee Institute for PreLaw as a successful program giving diverse high school students the opportunity to be eligible for law school admission.

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This Day in History: 1954 Ruling Ended 'Separate but Equal'

On this day in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that state laws establishing separate but equal educational institutions for blacks and whites violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The primary question Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court’s opinion is “the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.” In an opinion piece for the Tennessean, Frank Daniels III examines the societal and legal impact this groundbreaking ruling had on the American educational system.

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30+ Law Schools to Take Part in TBA Diversity Job Fair

More than 30 law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states have signed up to participate in the 3rd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair set for Aug. 23-24 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This event provides legal employers in Tennessee the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students for summer associate positions, clerkships and associate attorney positions. The employer registration deadline is June 7. To learn more, sign up online or contact TBA Programs Director Lynn Pointer. The TBA Diversity Job Fair is an initiative of the TBA Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

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Official’s Online Post Outrages Muslims

Coffee County commissioner Barry West’s anti-Muslim Facebook post outraged a number of national and local Islamic advocacy groups who are calling for an apology. Although he removed the offending photo, West said he didn’t understand why he was being “singled out” for posting it. The American Muslim Advisory Council, a statewide council devoted to promoting understanding between Tennesseans and Muslims, tweeted a screen shot of West’s post and encouraged people to call him and demand he apologize. “Regardless of whether you have Muslim constituents or not, you shouldn’t post this," said Drost Lokoye, a council board member. "A shotgun with a wink behind it? I feel threatened. This is not OK." The Tennessean has the story.

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Former AG Cody Remembers MLK’s Last Days

Mike Cody was a young civil rights lawyer when he received a call on April 3, 1968, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needed help fighting a federal injunction against marching for the rights of sanitation workers. Cody and other attorneys met with King in the Lorraine Motel the night before his assassination. On the 45th anniversary of King’s death, the Huffington Post yesterday featured the veteran Burch Porter & Johnson attorney’s story of upholding the legacy and dream King left behind.

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Waller Lawyer Named to Leadership Council

Heather Hubbard of Nashville’s Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis has been named a 2013 fellow to the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. The year-long fellowship will allow Hubbard to learn from some of the legal profession’s top general counsels and managing partners. It also includes extensive contact with LCLD’s top leadership as well as in-person conferences, virtual training on the fine points of legal practice, and peer-group projects to foster collaboration and build relationships. The Nashville Post has the story.

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Opinion: Too Soon to Undo Affirmative Action

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore uses an opinion piece in the Tennessean to blast Republicans in the General Assembly for introducing legislation to do away with affirmative action in Tennessee colleges and universities. In the article, Gilmore says that it is too soon to prohibit schools from considering factors of race, gender or ethnicity when it comes to admissions, faculty hiring or contracting since race and gender bias still exists in our society.

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Report Claims ABA Biased on Race, Gender in Judicial Recommendations

A new working paper by political scientist Maya Sen from the University of Rochester finds that the American Bar Association has for the past 50 years been systematically less likely to recommend the judicial confirmations of women or racial minorities than that of white men, the Washington Post reports. Sen focuses on nominations to the District Courts, the lowest level of federal courts, in part because the sheer number of seats means that there’s more information to mine than there is for appeals court or Supreme Court nominations.

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Court Hears Challenge to Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case challenging the part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that forces places with a history of discrimination, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before they make any changes in the way elections are held. The lawsuit from Shelby County, Ala., claims the “dire local conditions” that once justified federal oversight of elections no longer exist. The Commercial Appeal has the story.

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Trailblazing Judge, Civil Rights Lawyer Dies

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge W. Otis Higgs died suddenly Friday (Feb. 15) after hearing motions in court that morning. He was 75. Higgs has been called a “trailblazing, brave civil rights leader” and an accomplished judges. His experience includes representing workers involved in the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike; serving as Shelby County’s first and only black sheriff; and managing a lawsuit that overturned runoff rules that ultimately led to election of the city's first black mayor. He served as criminal court judge from 1970 to 1975 and again from 1998 to the present. Higgs also spent many years in private practice, working with Walter Bailey and D'Army Bailey at the Bailey Higgs Bailey firm. A graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law, Higgs also was an ordained minister, most recently serving at St. James CME and Second Congregational United Church of Christ. Funeral arrangements are pending. The Commercial Appeal and Memphis Daily News have more on his life.

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Memphis Law Hosts Diversity Pre-Law Day

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will host a Pre-Law Day for diverse undergraduate students Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Participants will hear tips on how to prepare for law school, submit a competitive application and apply for financial aid and scholarships. A keynote address by actor, author and Harvard Law School graduate Hill Harper will close out the day. Harper, who is best known for his acting role on the television series CSI and for his authorship of four New York Times bestsellers, is founder of Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering, encouraging and inspiring youth to succeed through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs.

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MBA Recruits Lawyers, High School Students for Intern Program

The Memphis Bar Association (MBA) is accepting applications now through March 25 for its 2013 Summer Law Intern Program, which introduces minority high school students to the practice of law by placing them in attorneys’ offices. Download an application from the MBA website or contact Mary Lynes at (901) 271-0660 or mlynes@memphisbar.org for more information. Lawyers interested in sponsoring an intern -- either by having them work in their offices or by paying a $500 stipend so the students can work at a government or non-profit agency – should contact MBA Executive Director Anne Fritz at (901) 527-3575 or afritz@memphisbar.org.

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NLBF Banquet to Honor Haynes, Garrett, Grant

The Napier-Looby Bar Foundation (NLBF) will hold its 9th Annual Barristers' Banquet and Awards Program Feb. 28 at the Sheraton in downtown Nashville. Money raised from the event enables the NLBF to award scholarships and to fund charitable efforts throughout the year. This year, NLBF is honoring U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr.; Bone McAllester Norton attorney Stacey A. Garrett; and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz attorney Charles Grant.

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Southern Law Students at Bar Center for Mock Trial

Law students from across the Southeast were at the Tennessee Bar Center today and Jan. 31 for the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial competition that was part of the 2013 Southern Regional Black Law Student Association Regional Convention in Nashville. A number of local attorneys and judges volunteered to serve as judges in the competition.

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