News

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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Scenes From TBA Diversity Job Fair 2012

Close to 100 law students from 22 law schools interviewed with 18 law firms and agencies from across Tennessee during the second annual TBA Diversity Job Fair, Sept. 7-8 at the Tennessee Bar Center.

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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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Civil Rights Lawyer to Receive ABA Medal

The American Bar Association (ABA) will present its highest award, the ABA Medal, to Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, when the group meets next month in Chicago. In announcing the news, ABA President Bill Robinson said Dees is an outstanding example of a lawyer who has moved the country toward tolerance and equality. He is known for winning cases that helped integrate government and public institutions and for fighting white supremacist hate groups. WKRN reports

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Lawyer Sues for Not Getting Court-Appointed Work

A lawyer who describes himself as "East Indian," Arun Rattan, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Knox County's five sessions court judges as well as the county itself, alleging he was skipped over for indigent defense work because of his race. He is asking a federal judge to award him unspecified damages and the "costs for representing himself." Knox County Law Director Joe Jarret is asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying Rattan has no legal grounds to sue since there is no right under the law for a private attorney to receive taxpayer-funded criminal defense work. Read the details in the News Sentinel

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YLD Wins Grant for DLI Program

The TBA YLD has been awarded a grant from the American Bar Association YLD to support its Diversity Leadership Institute, a six-month mentoring and leadership program for law students in Tennessee. Special thanks goes to Nashville lawyer Nikylan Knapper with the U.S. Department of Labor, who prepared the grant application. The DLI program, coordinated by the YLD Diversity Committee, will accept applications for the 2013 class this fall. Learn more about the program

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Deadline Friday for Employers to Register for Job Fair

The deadline for employers hoping to take part in the 2nd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair is Friday (June 29). This year's job fair is set for Sept. 7-8 in Nashville. Building on the success of last year's event, the 2012 job fair will provide legal employers the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students from law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states. Thirty law schools have already signed up. All legal employers in Tennessee are invited to take part, regardless of size or sector. Participants are asked to consider candidates for summer associate positions, clerkships and attorney openings. The event is an initiative of the TBA Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity (CRED). For more information contact TBA staff member Lynn Pointer.

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Law Camp Needs Volunteers in Nashville

Volunteers are needed for the 2nd annual Boys and Girls Law Camp in Nashville. Sponsored by the Napier-Looby Bar Association’s Student Outreach Committee, the camp will be held July 26-28 at Hartman Park Community Center. It will feature courthouse and law firm visits, oral advocacy workshops, and will culminate in an oral advocacy competition. For more information, contact Dannelle Walker or Hamilton Patrick.

Deadline Nears for Employers to Register for Job Fair

The deadline for employers hoping to take part in the 2nd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair is June 29. This year's job fair is set for Sept. 7-8 in Nashville. Building on the success of last year's event, the 2012 job fair will provide legal employers the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students from law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states. Twenty seven law schools have already signed up. All legal employers in Tennessee are invited to take part, regardless of size or sector. Participants are asked to consider candidates for summer associate positions, clerkships and attorney openings.

The Diversity Job Fair is an initiative of the TBA Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity (CRED). All activities for the job fair will be held at the Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. North, in Nashville. For more information contact TBA staff member Lynn Pointer.

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Judge Blocks Occupancy Certificate For Mosque

Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew today stopped short of halting construction on a new mosque in Murfreesboro, but blocked local officials from issuing an occupancy certificate for it. Last month Corlew voided construction approval for the facility. At a hearing today, opponents of the mosque asked him to order county officials to halt construction at the site. He declined, saying his ruling was not enforceable until after a 30-day appeal period. The Planning Commission voted on Monday to appeal. The County Commission will take up the issue Thursday. Read more from News Channel 5

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Rutherford Commission Votes to Appeal Mosque Ruling

Rutherford County planners voted 6-1 Monday to appeal a court ruling that declared their approval of a mosque void for not providing adequate public notice. “In my opinion, he was asking us to discriminate,” Rutherford County Regional Planning Commissioner Mike Kusch said of Chancellor Robert Corlew III's ruling. Another commissioner agreed, saying the ruling asked the county to discriminate by telling it to treat the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in a different way than how it approved construction plans for Grace Baptist Church next door. The Tennessean has the story

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Dixon Takes Office; Lawyers Honored at Luncheon

Lawyers Luncheon Highlight of 131st Annual TBA Convention

Nashville lawyer Jacqueline B. Dixon took office as the Tennessee Bar Association's 130th president at the association's annual convention in Memphis today. After being sworn into office by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Connie Clark (above), Dixon laid out her vision for the year, which will include a focus on civics education, civility in the profession, pro bono efforts and working to preserve an impartial judiciary.

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