News

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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KBA to Host Minority Law Student Reception

The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) Minority Opportunities Committee, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law will co-host a reception for minority law students on Sept. 27. Area lawyers are asked to volunteer to adopt a student as their “buddy” for the night. The event will be held at Old City Entertainment, 118 S. Central Street from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero also will be in attendance as a special guest. RSVP to (865) 522-6522 or on the KBA’s website

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Discrimination Ordinance Adopted, Delayed for 30 Days

The Memphis City Council voted 7-5 to add sexual orientation to its ordinance banning discrimination based on age, disability and national origin for city employment. But the council then voted to delay the amendment for 30 days while the legal department decides if the provision is legal under the city's charter. The Memphis Flyer has more.

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Black Business Group Files Complaint over Lack of Contracts

The Black Business/Contractors Association filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over Knox County’s lack of city and county contracts with black-owned businesses. Representatives from the association claim less than one percent of city or county business has gone to black-owned firms. Knox County officials said over 10 percent of its contracts go to minority- and women-owned businesses but they do not keep figures on specific breakdowns. Read more on Knoxnews.com.

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Obama Breaks Records for Female, Diverse Judges

According to the Blog of Legal Times, Barack Obama has surpassed any other president in history in placing women judges on the federal bench during a single term. Other milestones include appointing six women to districts where no female has ever served, and appointing as many women to the federal bench in his first term as George W. Bush did during his two terms. Obama’s 72 female judicial appointments mean that three out of 10 federal judges are now women. The paper also reports that the current administration has appointed more African American, Asian Pacific American and Hispanic judges than the previous administration.

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Proposal to Expand Discrimination Ban in Question

The Tennessee Equality Project wants the Memphis City Council to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in a non-discrimination city ordinance now before the council, the Commercial Appeal reports. The ordinance, sponsored by councilman Lee Harris, bans discrimination in city employment based on age, ethnicity, national origin and disability. Harris has not decided whether or not to expand the ordinance, which is scheduled for final vote on Tuesday.

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TBA Diversity Job Fair Opens Today

The 2nd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair kicks off today in Nashville with a panel discussion and reception for participants. Close to 100 law students from 22 law schools will be interviewing with 18 law firms and agencies from across Tennessee during the two-day event at the Tennessee Bar Center. This afternoon begins with a panel discussion about finding a job in the current market, with TBA President Jackie Dixon; Rob McGuire of the District Attorney General's Office; Bridgestone's Sue Palmer; and Stacey Garrett, with Bone McAllester Norton. Special thanks to Husch Blackwell LLP for being an event sponsor.

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Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Sues Court Over Top Spot

Justice Bernette Johnson is at the center of a racially charged legal battle over whether she will be the next chief justice -- the first African-American -- of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Lawyers are seeking to reopen an old voting rights case that gave the Deep South state its first black Supreme Court justice. Johnson joined the court in 1994, elected to a special seat created to remedy racial disparities in Louisiana's justice system. In Louisiana, the chief justice position is awarded based on seniority, and Johnson thought she was next. But some of her colleagues say that's not the case. Johnson has sued, asking a federal court to affirm that she was a full Supreme Court justice even though her original seat was created by settlement of a federal voting rights lawsuit. The case will be heard in a New Orleans federal court hearing Thursday. NPR looks into it

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Feds to Investigate Segregation Allegations in Robertson Schools

Federal investigators plan to meet with Robertson County school officials this month to discuss allegations of segregation. The meetings come after years of complaints to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about a lack of diversity and low test scores within the district’s schools – especially those inside Springfield city limits. In 2011, attorneys with the Departments of Justice and Education met with Springfield residents about these same issues. School officials say they're working to improve diversity and test scores. WTVF News Channel 5 reports

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U.S. Attorney Stanton Advises Lane Graduates

U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III delivered the address at Lane College’s summer commencement convocation on Sunday in Jackson, telling the 78 graduates "You have to know where you want to go and who you want to be. You have the tools. You just need the vision in order to succeed.” Stanton was nominated by President Barack Obama for the Western District position in 2010. Read more from Lane College

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