News

Judge McMullen to Speak at MTSU Event

Judge Camille R. McMullen of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals will be the featured speaker at Middle Tennessee State University's annual Unity Luncheon on Feb. 18. The event, scheduled from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., is part of the university's observance of Black History Month. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased online before Feb. 11. Read more from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette

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Major Court Decisions Expected in 2016

Abortion, affirmative action and immigration are among major decisions expected from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, according to the Tribune Washington Bureau. “In several cases, conservatives are hoping the high court will shift current law to the right or block President Barack Obama’s policies, while liberals are defending the status quo,” the author writes.

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Court Divided on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

The Supreme Court debated on Wednesday whether race should continue to be a factor in college admissions, NPR reports. The Court remains divided in the case that centers on Abigail Fisher, a white college applicant who claims she was not admitted to the University of Texas because of her race. The Court’s four liberal justices support affirmative action programs, while the four conservative justices say race should not be a factor in admissions. Justice Elena Kagan is recused from the case because she participated in the case when she served as solicitor general in the Obama administration. This is the case’s second trip through the Supreme Court. "We're just arguing the same case. It's as if nothing has happened,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said.

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Deadline Extended to Dec. 18 for DLI Applications

The YLD Diversity Committee has extended the deadline for applying for the 2016 Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI) until Dec. 18 at 5 p.m. Central. The DLI is a six-month program offering opportunities for leadership training, networking and mentoring for 2L and 3L law students. The program will run from January to June 2016. Learn more about the program or download an application from the TBA website. The committee also is seeking attorneys to serve as mentors for the law student class members. Contact Diversity Committee Chair Amber Floyd at 901-537-1054 to volunteer.

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Victim's Family Seeks DOJ Investigation Into Shooting

The family of a man killed this summer by a Memphis police officer is requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the death, the Commercial Appeal reports. A Shelby County grand jury last week decided not to indict the officer on voluntary manslaughter charges, which Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich had recommended. That sparked a protest Tuesday outside the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center that drew about 100 people. Darrius Stewart, 19, was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer during a traffic stop.

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Article Analyzes Lack of Diversity in Tennessee Courts

An article in The Tennessean highlights a lack of diversity in the applicant pool for the vacant Tennessee Supreme Court seat. More than three quarters of Tennessee's appeals court judges are white men. "We live in a culturally and racially diverse country and community and state, and therefore our courts ought to reflect that diversity,” said George Brown, one of only two black judges who have served on the Tennessee Supreme Court.  

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Supreme Court Looks at Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection

The U.S. Supreme Court today looked at racial discrimination in the selection of jurors as multiple prosecutors have filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with Timothy Foster, who was sentenced to death for killing an elderly woman in Georgia. "Numerous studies demonstrate that prosecutors use peremptory strikes to remove black jurors at significantly higher rates than white jurors,” attorneys for Foster said. NPR reports that it is unlikely the court will establish new rules to prevent "systematic discrimination." 

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Panel Discusses the Need for Diversity on the Bench

A panel at the Center for American Progress discussed the group’s new report “More Money, More Problems: Fleeting Victories for Diversity on the Bench" on Monday in Washington, D.C. The report advocates reforms that could help foster diversity on the bench, such as public financing for judicial campaigns. You can listen to the panel discussion online.

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Jury Selection Could be Difficult in Discrimination Case

A Chattanooga lawsuit filed by Erlanger Hospital’s former interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson that includes claims of racial remarks made against Thompson could make upcoming jury selection arduous. The Times Free Press reports that Thompson claimed several high-ranking hospital officials called medicine "a white man's world.” "In this situation, a problem would arise if the defense attorney used peremptory challenges to remove all or most African-Americans as prospective jurors," said Stephen Wasby, an emeritus professor at University at Albany.

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University of Memphis School of Law Receives Diversity Award

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law was one of five U.S. law schools to receive the 2015 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from “INSIGHT Into Diversity” magazine. “This recognition affirms our commitment to diversity and inclusion and our collaborative effort to achieve excellence amongst our student body and academic environment,” Peter V. Letsou, University of Memphis Law School Dean, said. 

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Minority Law Reception in Knoxville

Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) members along with students from Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law and the University of Tennessee College of Law are invited to KBA’s Minority Law Reception Oct. 1. The event will be held at The Square Room at Café 4, 5:30 – 7 p.m. “Our bar is made better when we foster the professional group of law students of color, and I ask you to join us,” KBA Executive Director Marsha Wilson writes.

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UT Law Will Promote Diversity Through New Position

Katrice W. Jones Morgan was named the University of Tennessee College of Law’s first director of diversity and inclusion. The new position was created as part of Dean Melanie D. Wilson’s initiative to promote diversity at UT Law. Morgan has worked at the College of Law since 2007, previously serving as assistant dean for student affairs before beginning her new role on Aug. 1.

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President Urges Lawmakers to Re-establish Voting Rights Act

President Barack Obama is urging lawmakers to re-establish elements of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, WCYB reports. "Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier -- not harder -- for more Americans to have their voices heard," Obama wrote in a letter to the New York Times Magazine. Obama's letter comes after the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act last week. 

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EJU Registration Closes Next Wednesday

Registration for the 2015 Equal Justice University (EJU) conference will close next Wednesday. Attendees will hear from national speakers such as Eric Carlson, with Justice in Aging; the National Employment Law Project's Rebecca Dixon; Camille Holmes with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; and Georgetown University law professor David Super. EJU is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association.

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Young Lawyers Earn 3 National Awards

The TBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) was honored at the American Bar Association YLD meeting in Chicago this month with three Awards of Achievement. The group took second place in the diversity category for a program it held last March to help diverse law students refine their resumes and prepare for job interviews. It also received the second place award in the “comprehensive” category, which recognizes all projects and activities from the past bar year. Finally, the YLD received a special recognition award for its Access to Justice Week Legal Clinic Initiative – a statewide service project that produced 14 free legal clinics and educational seminars for Tennesseans.

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Traditional Law Firm Model Not Effective in Offering Women Positions of Power

While the gender landscape in the legal industry is certainly changing, there is an undeniable amount of work to be done to elevate women to positions of power in law, according to Inside Counsel. The law firm model has been culturally and professionally established by men, the article says, so there has naturally been a slow-moving course toward matriculating women into it, and making it one driven by both sexes. “Law firms can help by teaching their partners about implicit bias and its impact on staffing and promotion decisions and providing training for them to find ways to overcome the effects of this bias on the career development of women (and minorities),” says Cynthia A. Bergmann, chair of the executive committee of Chicago-based firm Freeborn & Peters LLP.

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Shelby to Honor D’Army Bailey With Courthouse Naming

The Shelby County Civil Courthouse will be renamed the D’Army Bailey Courthouse, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Shelby County Commission voted 11-0 this afternoon to rename the courthouse in honor of the late circuit court judge and founder of the National Civil Rights Museum.

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Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed for Charleston Church Shooter

Federal hate crime charges were filed today against Dylann Roof in the racially charged Charleston church massacre that shook the country, according to court documents. The 21-year-old Roof is accused of killing nine black worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. WATE has the story from ABC.

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Shelby Commission to Consider Honor for Bailey

Ten days after Judge Bailey's death, the Shelby County Commission is poised to honor the civil rights trailblazer by naming the Shelby County Courthouse after him. A committee of the commission approved the measure this week. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Monday, WMC News 5 reports. Bailey died on July 12. He was 73 years old.

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Groups Call for Eliminating Bias in Justice System

ABA President William C. Hubbard and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, write in Monday’s National Law Journal that the country must address the “crisis of confidence” threatening the integrity of the criminal justice system. The pair lay out 12 specific recommendations for confronting and eliminating racial biases in the system.

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Black Lawyers Group Wants Members to Take on Brutality Cases

The National Bar Association is calling on black lawyers to advocate for victims and protesters of police brutality by representing them in civil cases and pushing for reforms of the criminal justice system. Prominent black leaders in the legal community told hundreds of lawyers at the group’s annual convention in Los Angeles this week that they should take more civil cases and advocate for both legislation and politicians who support reducing police brutality incidents. The National Law Journal has more (sub. req.).

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Senate Approves 1st Latina Judge for D.C. Appeals Court

After a lengthy nomination process, the U.S. Senate has voted to approve Kara Farnandez Stoll as the first Latina judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, according to the Latin Post. Stoll was nominated by President Obama in November 2014 but was not approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee until this past April. The vote of the full Senate last week was unanimous, though five members did not participate.

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State Won’t Block View of Confederate Statue

The state of Tennessee will not plant trees and shrubs to hide a statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Tennessean reports. Nashville’s Metro Council had made the request to hide the statue next to Interstate 65 from passing motorists. The statue depicts Forrest on horseback, surrounded by Confederate flags.

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Law Prof’s Dim View of Atticus Finch Vindicated 23 Years Later

A Hofstra University law professor who was attacked for his appraisal of the fictional lawyer Atticus Finch 20 years ago is being vindicated by this week's publication of Harper Lee's “Go Set a Watchman.” In her "new" novel, written before "To Kill a Mockingbird," but only now published, Lee has Finch defending segregationist propaganda and deriding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Read more from the National Law Journal, which also published the original column from professor Monroe Freedman.

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Non-Discrimination Ordinance Language Amended

The Chattanooga city council has amended a pending non-discrimination ordinance to remove the phrase "gender expression" and added definitions for terms that some found confusing or problematic. The move comes after the council took comments from the public on both sides of the issue. The proposed ordinance would explicitly prohibit the harassment and discrimination of city employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Chattanoogan reports.

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