News

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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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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2nd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair Set for Fall

The 2nd Annual TBA Diversity Job Fair is set for Sept. 7-8 in Nashville. Building on the success of last year’s event, this year’s job fair will provide legal employers the opportunity to interview diverse 2L and 3L law students from law schools in Tennessee and surrounding states. More than 25 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 associate attorney openings.

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Memphis Law Names Diversity Coordinator

The University of Memphis School of Law has named Jacqueline O'Bryant as its new coordinator of diversity programs. Among her responsibilities, O'Bryant will oversee the Tennessee Institute for Prelaw, actively recruit and support diverse law students, and develop additional outreach initiatives for the school. O'Bryant previously was deputy prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County, Ark., and taught as an adjunct professor at Philander Smith College in Little Rock. Earlier in her career she served as in-house counsel for Alltel Communications and worked at the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. O'Bryant earned her law degree from the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

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Lawyer Who Helped With 'Brown v. Board' Dies

Louis H. Pollak, a federal judge who as a young lawyer helped work on the pivotal school-desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, and later served as dean of two Ivy League law schools, died Tuesday at 89. Read more about him from the AP

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Baker Donelson Named Top Firm for Women, African-Americans

For the fifth consecutive year, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC has been named among the "Top 100 Law Firms for Women" by MultiCultural Law, a magazine focused on diversity in the legal profession. The firm was also ranked among the "Top 25 Law Firms for African Americans" for the second consecutive year. The firm reports that its Diversity Initiative, launched in 2002, and its Women's Initiative, launched in 2005, has led to numerous new programs designed to foster an atmosphere that honors each individual's diverse qualities. Learn more about the firm’s efforts

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Country Club Admits First Female Member

Nashville's Belle Meade Country Club has admitted its first resident female member, a milestone for the 111-year-old private club that has come under fire in recent months for a lack of diversity. According to the club’s most recent newsletter, obtained by The Tennessean, Adelaide D. Stevens, the owner of a stationery and imprinting company, is the newest member. Resident members are entitled to hold office and vote on club matters. The club's lack of diversity came to the forefront last year when a federal judicial panel concluded it engages in race and gender discrimination and reprimanded now-retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George C. Paine II for his membership.

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TBA YLD Is Finalist for Next Steps Challenge

News from the Young Lawyers Division and the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity
The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD) received recognition as one of four finalists in the American Bar Association YLD’s Next Steps Challenge. The division was recognized for its Diversity Leadership Institute, a six-month leadership program for diverse law students in Tennessee. This past weekend, YLD Diversity Committee Chair Ahsaki Baptist spoke about the institute and how other bars can implement similar programs during the ABA YLD’s spring meeting in Nashville. Learn more about the Diversity Leadership Institute

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DOJ Slams Shelby County Juvenile System

The U.S. Justice Department said today that juvenile offenders in Shelby County are denied due process rights and that black children are treated differently and more harshly than white children by the Juvenile Court. The investigation by the department’s Civil Rights Division began in August 2009 and included the review of 66,000 case files from a five-year period. Among other violations, it found repeated failures to protect children from self incrimination, failure to notify children and their parents of charges prior to hearing dates, a pattern of sending children to detention without warrants if they were arrested on weekends or holidays, a lack of thoroughness in deciding to charge juveniles as adults, and a lack of safe conditions at the detention center. And while these failures applied to all children, the DOJ said there was a verifiable and noticeable difference in how black children were treated. Read more in The Memphis Daily News or download the report

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Benjamin Hooks Documentary and Conference This Week

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis will host the Red Carpet Premiere of "Duty of the Hour," a documentary on the life of Benjamin L. Hooks, April 20 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at The Orpheum Theatre. The event is part of the Hooks Institute Annual Civil and Human Rights Conference taking place April 18-29. Learn more about the documentary and the conference or call the Hooks Institute at (901) 678-3974.

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