News

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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SRBLSA Mock Trial at Tennessee Bar Center

Law students from across the South were at the Tennessee Bar Center Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 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.

SRBLSA Mock Trial

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Court Clerk Prematurely Revokes Drivers' Licenses

The Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's office is quickly seeking to mitigate the chaos it put into motion when it revoked 1,279 driver's licenses without verifying such a sanction was legally appropriate, reports Knoxnews.com. Though state law allows revocation of licenses for those who do not pay court costs and fines within a year of conviction, if the offender is making regular payments or has been granted an extension to pay, no revocation can be ordered. Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong yesterday put a halt to the revocation process while his office sorts out the issue.

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Waller MLK Event Features Civil Rights Heroes

Leaders of the renowned Nashville Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s recalled their work and the lessons learned during a tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hosted today in Nashville by the Waller law firm.

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Volunteers Needed for Moot Court, Mock Trial Events

Lawyers and sitting judges are needed to preside over the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition and the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, both of which are being held by the Southern Region of the National Black Law Students Association Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 in Nashville. Volunteers are needed for a variety of time slots. See the schedule and sign up online for the moot court competition or the mock trial competition. For additional information, contact the southern region at srblsa.mocktrial@nblsa.org.

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Percentage of Women Associates, Partners Decrease

Although the number of women attorneys and doctors has risen significantly within the last 40 years, the percentage of female associates in law firms has fallen slightly for the third year in a row, according to the NALP. The ABA Journal reports that women make up 40.05 percent of associates, an incremental but steady decrease from 45.66 percent in 2009. The percentage of women partners decreased from 19.54 percent in 2011 to 19.91 percent in 2012. Minority women are the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partner level, comprising just 2.16 percent of law firm partners in 2012.

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Tenn. Law Schools Named Among Best for Black Students

Vanderbilt University Law School was named one of the top 25 law schools in the country for black students by On Being A Black Lawyer Magazine, a resource that supports African-Americans’ success in law school. In addition, the University of Memphis School of Law was named a top five regional school for black students. Selection was based on eight factors: cost, alumni placement, number of black alumni, selectivity in admissions, black student population, strength of the local legal job market, local cost of living and size of the local black population. Finally, the magazine named the University of Tennessee College of Law as a “best bargain.”

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Court Rules Against Michigan Affirmative Action Ban

A federal appeals court ruled 8-7 that Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional, six years after state voters said race could not be an issue in choosing students. WXYZ Action News 7 reports that the court said the 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution is illegal because it presents an extraordinary burden to opponents who would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign through the ballot box to protect affirmative actions. Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., who wrote for the majority at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, stated the burden “undermines the Equal Protection Clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change” and that supporters and opponents should debate through the governing boards of each public university.

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Barristers’ Ball and Scholarship Awards

The Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association will host its annual Barrister’s Ball and Scholarship Awards Saturday at the Racquet Club in Memphis. The Ball is an opportunity for lawyers, judges, and their families to come together for a night of great food, music, dancing, recognition of outstanding achievements, and fundraising to support scholarships to deserving minority students of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

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Baker Donelson Awards Diversity Scholarships

The law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz yesterday announced the recipients of its 2012 Diversity Scholarship. In Tennessee, Willie Santana, a second-year law student at the University of Tennessee College of Law, was selected. He will serve as a summer associate in the firm’s Knoxville office. Established in 2008, the program awards scholarships annually to diverse law school students who have completed their first year of law school. Each recipient receives a salaried summer associate position and a $10,000 scholarship. Read more from the firm

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Report Shows Female Lawyers Still Lag in Pay

Female attorneys continue to lag their male colleagues in salary and leadership roles at firms, a new study from the National Association of Women Lawyers found. As reported in the Boston Business Journal, the study showed that compensation for women is lower at all levels, but especially in equity partner ranks, where women earn about 89 percent of what men make.

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Memphis Non-Discrimination Ordinance Passes, Includes Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Amendment

After weeks of debate, the Memphis City Council approved on third and final reading the non-discrimination city ordinance that includes an amendment prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Daily News reports. The council also approved a resolution that the city’s personnel director cannot consider sexual orientation or gender identity in personnel decisions.

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Court to Decide if Racial Slurs Among 'Friends' a Problem

A Utah judge rejected claims that a company should not be tried for creating a hostile work enviornment because, its attorneys argued, racist jokes and repeated offensive racial epithets on its job sites were just jokes among friends. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had filed a racial harassment suit against Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc. after presenting undisputed evidence that white supervisors repeatedly used offensive racial epithets and told racists jokes to African American workers. Holmes & Holmes’ lawyers, however, asked Utah Federal Judge Dale Kimball to dismiss the case and sanction the EEOC on the grounds that the African American workers did not find the use of the slurs offensive and were friends with the supervisor. Judge Kimball rejected the motion and sanction request, and the case will go to trial. The National Law Journal has the story.

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Louisiana Appoints First Black Chief Justice

After a racially tinged battle over the rightful successor to Chief Justice Catherine Kimball, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bernadette Johnson, making her the first African American Chief Justice in the state News Channel 5 reports. Justice Jeffrey Victory contested that Johnson’s years of appointed service shouldn’t count and he should succeed Kimball. Johnson filed suit in federal court in July after her colleagues said they would debate the matter. The court ultimately ruled that Johnson’s appointed service was legitimate according to the constitution and that she was the rightful successor.

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Judge Dismisses 'Bachelor' Discrimination Suit

A federal judge in Nashville has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks against the ABC television show The Bachelor for racial discrimination, NPR reports. The African American plaintiffs alleged that the show discriminates against people of color in casting the bachelor, bachelorette and other contestants. The court ruled that under the First Amendment, the show’s producers and casting directors were free to cast or reject whomever they please. Read the full court decision here.

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Briefs from Legal Community Overwhelmingly Support UT

Law schools, law professors and legal organizations across the country are actively supporting the University of Texas in its highly publicized affirmative action case, which went before the high court today. Of the 73 amicus briefs filed in the case, virtually all of the briefs from law schools and legal organizations defend affirmative action in higher education, reports Law.com. Though the case involves an undergraduate student, the law schools argue that banning consideration of race in admissions would hamstring efforts to boost diversity in their schools, and in the profession at large. One notable exception was a brief filed by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, who argues that affirmative action hurts minority students who are not prepared to meet the academic standards required at some universities.

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Civil Rights Still Priority, 50 Years After Ole Miss Integrated

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that civil rights enforcement remains a federal priority, as he spoke in Oxford, Miss., on the 50th anniversary of the admittance of the first black student to the University of Mississippi. Holder said the Department of Justice continues to "strive for equal justice under law, and to be both rigorous and fair in our enforcement of the essential civil rights protections that so many have fought, and even died, to secure." Efforts to enroll James Meredith provoked a night of rioting in 1961, killing two and injuring hundreds. Holder said the injured included more than 160 marshals, who battled integration opponents outside the landmark Lyceum building at Ole Miss. TriCities.com carried the story

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