News

Muslim Officer Wins $100K for Wrongful Firing

De’Ossie Dingus, a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper who was fired after being labeled a potential jihadist, has won a $100,000 damage award from the state. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ordered the state to pay Dingus after he was treated as a threat, subjected to humiliating circumstances and wrongfully terminated because of his faith. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the case was so egregious it did not require a traditional proof of psychological harm to have damages awarded. That ruling led to this week’s award, Knoxnews reports.

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Baker Donelson Earns Top Ranking for Diversity

Baker Donelson has been ranked ninth among the nation’s “Best Law Firms for Diversity” by Vault Inc. Baker Donelson achieved top 10 status in three of five categories used to calculate the rankings: diversity for women (sixth place), diversity for military veterans (ninth place) and diversity for individuals with disabilities (10th place). The firm reports that its diversity initiative has led to an increase in diverse attorneys and shareholders, and retention and promotion of female attorneys. Chattanoogan.com has more.

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Walk Against Racism Planned for Saturday

Blount County United, an organization dedicated to promoting an appreciation for diversity and advocating for equality and justice throughout the community, will present its second annual Walk Against Racism and Violence on Saturday. The walk will begin at 1 p.m. at New Providence Presbyterian Church, 703 W. Broadway in Maryville. The walk will end at the steps of the Blount County Courthouse. The Daily Times has more details.

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Community Dialogue Tackles Race, Equity

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry held a second community forum over the weekend to discuss race, equity and leadership, the Tennessean reports. About 750 citizens attended the event, which was billed as a “safe space” for constructive dialogue on issues of concern to the African American community, as well as broader concerns about race and social justice. Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service designed and facilitated the dialogue.

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Services Pending for Memphis Lawyer Caywood

Memphis lawyer David Caywood died Wednesday (Sept. 7) after suffering a stroke a few weeks earlier. He was 79. As a young lawyer at Burch, Porter & Johnson, Caywood was recruited by his father-in-law, Lucius Burch, to help represent sanitation strikers in Memphis during the height of the civil rights movement. Burch and Caywood met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel the day before King was assassinated. Caywood went on to practice for 50 years mostly in the area of family law. He also represented former state senator John Ford and the wife of a FedEx pilot who was found beaten and burned while attempting to divorce her husband. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Emison to Speak about Murdered NAACP Leader

Jim Emison will speak at Vanderbilt University Law School this Monday at noon. The event, scheduled to take place in the Renaissance Room, is open to the public. Emison, a former TBA president, has worked tirelessly for justice and recognition for Elbert Williams, a member of the NAACP who organized meetings of African Americans in West Tennessee’s Haywood County. In 1940, Williams was found in a river and buried without an autopsy in an unmarked grave. Emison is the author of Elbert Williams: First to Die, a nod to the fact that Williams was likely the first NAACP leader in the country to be killed.

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Supreme Court Won’t Reinstate NC Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied a request from North Carolina to allow provisions of its controversial voting rights law to go back into effect. In a 4-4 split, justices left standing a lower court opinion that struck down the law. The vote was a win for civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, which had argued the law would have a disparate impact on minority voters. Local Memphis has a CNN story.

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Just Breathe: ‘Journal’ Shows Ways to Combat Stresses of Lawyering

A recent study shows more damning news on how lawyers are handling the pressures of the profession – more than a third of lawyers qualified as “problem drinkers” and about a quarter reported experiencing depression, anxiety or stress. These are higher rates than documented in earlier studies and more than in other professions. This issue of the Journal looks at ways some lawyers have beat that trend through mindfulness and meditation – and how you can, too. Plus, our book review of The Anxious Lawyer gives insight into the topic. Also in this issue, TBA President Jason Long writes about the necessary and important steps to embracing diversity. Read the September issue.

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5 Other Lawyers Named to Civil Rights Panel

The U. S. Commission on Civil Rights recently announced the appointment of all Tennessee Advisory Committee members. TBA Today had previously reported on the appointment of Brian Krumm and Valerie Vojdik with the University of Tennessee College of Law, and Middle Tennessee State University professors Amy Sayward and Sekou Franklin. Other attorneys on the panel are Tiffany Cox, J. Gregory Grisham, Daniel Horwitz, Diane Di Ianni and Justin Owen. Each will serve a four-year term and be responsible for reporting on and recommending action on state and local civil rights issues such as justice, voting, discrimination, housing and education.

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UT Law Professors Named to Civil Rights Committee

Two professors at the University of Tennessee College of Law have been appointed to the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Val Vojdik, the Waller Lansden Distinguished Professor of Law, and Brian Krumm, associate professor of law and director of the college’s Business Law and Trademark Clinic, were selected as Knoxville’s sole representatives on the committee. They join two educators from Middle Tennessee State University, who were announced by that school last week.

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MTSU Professors Join Civil Rights Commission

Two professors with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) have been appointed to the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Shelbyville Times Gazette reports. History professor Amy Sayward and political science and international relations associate professor Sekou Franklin will serve for four years on the committee, which is responsible for reporting on and recommending action on state and local civil rights issues such as justice, voting, discrimination, housing and education.

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Vanderbilt to Remove Confederate Name from Hall

Vanderbilt University will repay an 83-year-old donation from the United Daughters of the Confederacy so it can drop the name Confederate Memorial Hall from a residence hall in the center of campus. The university had attempted to rename the building Memorial Hall some years ago but the state chapter of the Daughters fought the move. At the time, the court found that the school would have to repay the donation at its current value if it wanted to remove the name. The Tennessean has more.

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ABA Diversity Commission Reveals Results

A new website features the final work product of the ABA’s Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission. The group, established by past president Paulette Brown, studied ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Available materials include policies, online tools, videos, surveys and templates that can be used by bar groups, schools and communities. Some of the group's recommendations called for implicit bias training for jurors, diversity training in CLE programs and a survey of local law firm diversity. The ABA unveiled the commission’s work at its Annual Meeting in San Fransisco last week.

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ABA House Adopts Rule on Harassment, Discrimination

The ABA House of Delegates approved a model professional conduct rule that prohibits harassment and discrimination by lawyers “on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status or socioeconomic status” during its annual meeting in San Francisco. The National Association of Women Lawyers strongly supported the move, while critics argued it would have a chilling effect on lawyers' First Amendment rights, The New York Times reports. During two days of deliberation, the body also approved proposals to (1) permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time, (2) broaden diversity and inclusion in the profession, (3) urge state and local governments to abolish offender-funded probation systems and provide Miranda warnings in Spanish, and (4) urge legislatures to eliminate the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

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Law School Externships, Misconduct Rules on ABA Annual Meeting Agenda

The ABA House of Delegates will meet Aug. 8-9 in San Francisco for its annual meeting. Items on the agenda include a proposal that would permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time; an amendment to the model rules of conduct to add anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions; a proposal urging states to abolish probation systems supervised by private, for-profit firms; and initiatives that expand ABA efforts to diversify the legal profession and the judiciary.

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Report Alleges Little Has Changed for Memphis Juveniles

An in-depth profile of the Shelby County Juvenile Court system published by the nonprofit organization Next City argues that four years after the Department of Justice found that Memphis treated black juvenile offenders more harshly than white peers “little has changed.” The piece acknowledges that there has been progress, but alleges there is still “a serious lack of movement” to address racial disparities. The report also found “across-the-board deterioration … since the transfer of the [juvenile] facility to the sheriff” and continued patterns of trying black juveniles as adults.

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Court Finds Voter ID Law Has ‘Discriminatory Effect’

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today ruled that Texas’s strict voter-ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and ordered a lower court to come up with a fix in time for the November elections. The appeals court said that those who possess the necessary ID must show it to vote in November. But it directed a lower court to rectify “the discriminatory effect on those voters who do not have … ID or are unable to reasonably obtain such identification.” The court estimates that some 600,000 people lack the required identification, with African American, Hispanic and poor voters most likely to be affected, the Washington Post reports.

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Justice Birch Building, Statue to be Celebrated Aug. 27

The Nashville Bar Foundation will hold an event Aug. 27 at 5 p.m. to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Justice A. A. Birch Building and dedicate a new 8-foot bronze statue of Birch, who was the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Following the ceremony, the foundation will hold an awards dinner inside the Justice A.A. Birch Building. For more information, contact Judge Rachel Bell, 615-862-8341.

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Memphis Police Complaints to be Reviewed

The Memphis Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, which looks at police misconduct cases and makes recommendations to the police director, was revived last year and is now accepting complaints against police for activity from 2011 to 2013. The Associated Press reports that police received 403 complaints from 190 people during that period with only 12 of those complaints acted on. The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center is working to bring as many of these cases as possible to the review board. The Times Free Press has the story.

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Nashville to Hold Public Hearings on Policing, Justice

A week after a series of national shootings involving police exposed deep-seeded racial mistrust around the country, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry announced several public events to hear from area residents on policing, criminal justice and race relations. The forums, to be held in conjunction with Lipscomb University’s Institute of Conflict Management, kick off July 23 at 1 p.m. at Pearl-Cohn High School, the Tennessean reports.

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Studies Yield Different Findings on Police Shootings

A new study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr. finds that blacks are not any more likely than whites to be shot at by police, but those findings differ from a Washington Post review that shows blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be shot and killed by police. The Fryer study did find that blacks are more likely to be subjected to rough treatment by police than whites, with blacks 170 percent more likely to be grabbed, 217 percent more likely to be handcuffed, 305 percent more likely to have a gun pointed at them, and 87 percent more likely to be kicked or subjected to a stun gun or pepper spray. The ABA Journal has links to the Fryer and Post studies.

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3 Attorneys Earn Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award

The National Civil Rights Museum will presents its Freedom Award to five recipients who have worked to improve human rights in the United States and around the world, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Lawyers among the group are Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who takes on high profile cases pro bono; Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor at the New York University School of Law; and Damon Jerome Keith, the longest serving judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The awards event, set for Oct. 20, also will feature a tribute to “the Memphis 13” – a group of first graders who desegregated four elementary schools in the city.

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Nashville Lawyers Monitor Vigil, Protests

Nashville lawyers served as monitors for a march held Friday evening that closed Broadway but remained peaceful, the Tennessean reports. About 10 lawyers from private firms as well as the Nashville Public Defender’s Office, donned fluorescent green clothing designating them as a National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers. The group monitored the event to make sure there were no negative interactions with police and people’s rights were not violated.

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Justice Dept. Begins Investigation into Sterling Shooting

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge, Louisiana., police, reports The New York Times. The incident was captured on video and shared widely on social media, prompting protests over the police killing of an African-American man. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards promised a thorough investigation. “I have very serious concerns,” Edwards said. “The video is disturbing, to say the least.”
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BancorpSouth Fined for ‘Redlining’ in Memphis

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have fined Mississippi-based BancorpSouth $10.6 million for deliberately discriminating against minorities in its lending practices. The action alleges the bank avoided construction of branches in minority neighborhoods in Memphis and charged higher interest rates on loans made to minorities than to non-minorities. The Daily Times has more from the AP.

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