News

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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Coach Resigns Following Complaints of Racial Taunting

Springfield’s High School baseball coach has resigned amid a state investigation into claims of racial taunting between players on his team. The Tennessee Office of Civil Rights is investigating a complaint made by a player’s parent that came to light during a public hearing in February. That event was part of an ongoing discussion of segregation in Robertson County schools, the Tennessean reports.

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Public Defender, Mother, Talks About Racism

Ainka Jackson, an assistant public defender in Nashville, spoke last week during a mayoral candidate forum focused on criminal justice policies that have led to mass incarceration, which is disproportionately destructive to minority communities. Jackson, who is black and also a mother, a wife and a sister, spoke just after the riots in Baltimore about what it means to be a black woman, in all those roles, in today's America. Read her speech in the Nashville Scene.

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NCBP Offers Scholarships to Boost Diversity

The National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) is offering scholarship to encourage leaders from traditionally underrepresented bars to attend its annual meeting July 30 – Aug. 1 in Chicago. The scholarship will cover registration costs as well as up to $500 in travel expenses.

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Attorney Fights to Honor Forgotten Civil Rights Martyr

Retired Alamo attorney Jim Emison hopes to elevate the little-known story of Elbert Williams, a charter member of the NAACP and voting rights advocate in Haywood County, who was found dead in 1940. After a visit from police, Williams disappeared. Three days later, he was found in the Hatchie River. Emison, who is writing a book about Williams, says all signs point to murder at the hands of local law enforcement. Emison is planning a memorial service for Williams on June 20, the anniversary of his death, and hopes to put a tombstone on his now-unmarked grave, Nashville Public Radio reports.

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Emory Law To Establish John Lewis Chair

Emory University School of Law has received a $1.5 million donation to help establish a John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice. The gift, given anonymously, funds a professorship that will enable Emory Law to conduct a national search for a scholar with an established academic profile of distinction and a demonstrated desire to promote the rule of law through the study of civil rights. In 1963, at the age of 23, Lewis was a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington. He has served in Congress as representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1987.

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Criminal Justice Expert Speaks on Racism

Georgetown law professor Paul Butler spoke on “Criminal Justice After Ferguson,” Monday at the University of Tennessee, the student newspaper The Daily Beacon reports. Valorie Vojdik, the director of the clinical programs and professor in the College of Law, said inviting Butler to campus was a decision made following the events that unfolded this year in Ferguson, New York City and South Carolina, which she said have “rocked” the criminal justice system.

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Court Rejects Alabama Redistricting Plan

A deeply divided Supreme Court today rejected a Republican redistricting plan in Alabama that packed black voters into urban districts to dilute their impact elsewhere, the Leaf Chronicle reports. The majority opinion drew an angry, 13-page dissent from Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the court's only black justice.

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Firm Marks Black History Month with Film, Book Event

Baker Donelson will host a movie screening and book signing at its Nashville office this Thursday in conjunction with the Nashville Public Television and Black History Month. At 5:30 p.m., the firm will show American Denial – the story of researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal. Following the screening, Baker Donelson senior counsel Chervis Isom will discuss his autobiography, The Newspaper Boy, which tells the story of a teenager’s journey to racial tolerance in 1950s and 1960s Birmingham. RSVP by March 18.

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TBA Committee Seeks Diversity Survey Participants

In an effort to enhance racial diversity within Tennessee's legal profession and to make the profession and the justice system more reflective of the state's diversity, the TBA’s Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity is conducting a Survey of Diversity Practices. To participate in the study, contact Sections and Committees Coordinator Jenny Jones, (615) 383-7421 by Friday.

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NAACP Embarks on 'Journey for Justice'

The Tennessee NAACP State Conference will hold its 15th Annual Legislative Day on the Hill in Nashville next Tuesday. The group hopes to engage state lawmakers on issues such as Medicaid expansion, increasing the minimum wage, expanding voting rights and ensuring that Tennessee enacts a new ban on racial profiling. The event is part of a month-long campaign by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP called “Journey for Justice.” The Chattanoogan has more.

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Report Finds Racial Bias in Ferguson Police, Court

Federal officials will not bring civil rights charges against former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson but will release a scathing report tomorrow documenting patterns of racial bias in the Ferguson police department, jail and court, the Washington Post reports. The investigation – launched after Wilson shot and killed an unarmed 18-year old African American – found that police officers disproportionately used excessive force against blacks and too often charged them with petty offenses. The investigation also revealed racial bias among court and jail employees. The U.S. Justice Department is negotiating a settlement with the police department to change its practices, though some are calling for a more radical response.

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