News

City Pledges $900k to Living Memphis Sanitation Strikers

In honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the city of Memphis will give $50,000 to each of the 14 living sanitation workers who staged strikes over working conditions in the 1960’s, The Commercial Appeal reports. "It's a major step toward the financial security they deserve," said Mayor Jim Strickland of the proposal. The city will cover the cost of the tax-free grants with money from its reserves. 
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Website Shows America's Brutal Lynching History

Two years ago, a groundbreaking study on lynching documented the brutal mob violence that forced many African Americans to flee the south. With help from Google, now the Equal Justice Initiative that published the study has transformed Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror into an interactive digital platform that combines historical data and personal stories so people can explore one of the darkest passages in the nation's history. Knoxnews.com has the USAToday story.

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Big Law Sees Small Gains in Diversity, but None for African-Americans

Large law firms saw a small increase in diversity last year, but the gains did not extend to African-American lawyers, the ABA Journal reports. Minorities now make up 15.6 percent of the lawyers at the nation’s top 250 firms, up from 15 percent last year, and the percentage of minority partners increased 0.4 percentage points, to 8.6 percent. The percentage of African-Americans, however, did not change from the previous year. According to the American Lawyers's  diversity scorecard, Asian-American and Hispanic lawyers did expericnce gains in both number of lawyers and partners.  
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Attorney-Author Seeks Info on Early African-American Lawyers

Nashville attorney Lewis Laska is collecting information for a book he is writing about African-American lawyers in Tennessee (1868-1968). He seeks information regarding experiences, anecdotes, documents, cases and memoirs regarding black lawyers during this era. Although he has already identified 206 names, he does not want to leave anyone or anything out and therefore requests any other available information. Contact him at P. O. Box 252, Madison, TN 37116, (615) 491-2928 or at llaska@verdictslaska.com.

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ABA Launches Diverse Speakers Directory

The American Bar Association is looking for attorneys from underrepresented groups to join the new Diverse Speakers Directory, a initiative designed to give opportunities to speakers from diverse backgrounds and also help CLE planners connect with those individuals. ABA and non-ABA members are invited to sign up for the directory, which would be used by more than 3,500 ABA entities looking for speakers for their events or experts in a subject matter. 
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Crockett County to Remember Man Lynched by Mob in 1929

The Crockett County NAACP and the Equal Justice Initiative are sponsoring a ceremony to remember Joe Boxley, a man lynched by a mob in 1929. The ceremony will feature a dedication of soil from the site where he was killed for permanent display in the Equal Justice Initiative museum. Speakers will include District Attorney Garry A. Brown, Tennessee History for Kids Founder Bill Carey, a Boxley family member and a representative of the Equal Justice Initiative.The dedication will be in the Crockett County Courthouse in Alamo at 10 a.m. on June 10.

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House Members Spar After Accidentally Honoring Klan Leader

Tennessee House members sparred yesterday after they unwittingly voted in favor of a resolution honoring the achievements of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Tennessean reports. Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyra), apologized to members of the black caucus after sponsoring the resolution to honor Shane Kastler, the author of a book about Forrest. “I passed this not trying to hurt anybody's feelings,” Sparks said. Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) said he thought Sparks “pulled a fast one,” adding that he would take his vote back if he could.
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Many Pledge to 'Stand Against Racism' at YWCA Event

Several hundred people gathered in Nashville's Public Square Park today for the YWCA's annual Stand Against Racism event. The programming was led by Mayor Megan Barry and featured several lawyers and others speaking on the theme "Women of Color Leading Change." Among the speakers were Ana Escobar, with the Davidson County District Attorney General's Office; civil rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld; and Sharon Roberson, president and CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. Melody Fowler-Green, with the Metro Human Relations Commission, and Beverly Watts, who serves on the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commisson, led the crowd in committing to the pledge. See photos from the event.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law

A federal judge ruled today that a voter ID law passed in Texas in 2011 was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, the New York Times reports. The judge had previously made a similar ruling, but the state of Texas appealed her decision and a federal appellate court instructed her to review the issue again.
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Learn the Neuroscience of Decision-Making at the TBA Convention

At the TBA Convention in Kingsport, a special joint Bench/Bar CLE will examine the role neuroscience plays in our decision-making skills and judgment. The session will include exercises, tools and specific strategies for increasing impartiality and integrity in decision-making. The course will identify ways to increase fairness guided by science. The convention will be June 14-17 at the MeadowView Marriott Resort.
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Former Nashville Employee Claims Firing Violated Civil Rights

A former Metro Nashville worker filed suit against the city in federal court today, claiming her civil rights were violated in her firing, the Tennessean reports. Danyelle Bennett is seeking $2 million in damages over her termination, which she said was tied to a November Facebook post in which she posted a graphic in support of President Donald Trump’s victory. In comments about the post, Bennett’s response to one statement included the use of a racial expletive.
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DOJ Changes Course in Voting Rights Case

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday dropped a claim that a strict voter ID law in Texas was enacted with discriminatory intent, according to the ABA Journal. Opponents had argued the restrictions on which IDs were acceptable were intended to benefit Republicans and white voters who tend to support them.The Justice Department said it was dropping the claim to allow time for Texas lawmakers to consider a bill that would allow more types of IDs. A lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs in the case, Danielle Lang, said that the dropped claim "is a complete 180-degree turn."

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DOJ Changes Course in Voting Rights Case

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday dropped a claim that a strict voter ID law in Texas was enacted with discriminatory intent, according to the ABA Journal. Opponents had argued the restrictions on which IDs were acceptable were intended to benefit Republicans and white voters who tend to support them.The Justice Department said it was dropping the claim to allow time for Texas lawmakers to consider a bill that would allow more types of IDs. A lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs in the case, Danielle Lang, said that the dropped claim "is a complete 180-degree turn."

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DOJ Changes Course in Voting Rights Case

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday dropped a claim that a strict voter ID law in Texas was enacted with discriminatory intent, according to the ABA Journal. Opponents had argued the restrictions on which IDs were acceptable were intended to benefit Republicans and white voters who tend to support them.The Justice Department said it was dropping the claim to allow time for Texas lawmakers to consider a bill that would allow more types of IDs. A lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs in the case, Danielle Lang, said that the dropped claim "is a complete 180-degree turn."

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Memphis BLSA Raises $100K for Scholarships at Banquet

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the Black Law Students Association hosted an awards banquet last night that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships. Billed as the Inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet, the event was established to create more opportunities for diverse students to pursue a legal education.
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Memphis BLSA Raises $100K for Scholarships at Banquet

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the Black Law Students Association hosted an awards banquet last night that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships. Billed as the Inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet, the event was established to create more opportunities for diverse students to pursue a legal education.
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Napier-Looby Bar Foundation Hosts Awards Banquet

The Napier-Looby Bar Foundation’s 13th Annual Barrister’s Banquet and Awards Program will be held Thursday evening. This year’s program will honor Richard Manson with the Z. Alexander Looby Lifetime Achievement Award, Mercedes Mynor-Faulcon with the Justice A. A. Birch Outstanding Service Award and Charles K. Grant and Joycelyn Stevenson with the J. C. Napier Trailblazer Award. The night’s events will be held at the Music City Center in Nashville, and begin with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
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Memphis City Hall ‘Blacklist’ Could Violate Federal Decree

The city of Memphis made public Friday a list of people requiring police escorts when they are in City Hall, an act that may have violated a 1978 federal consent decree banning political surveillance, the Commercial Appeal reports. The list is comprised mostly of prominent political activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently looking into the case.
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Vanderbilt Basketball to Honor Civil Rights Leaders

In honor of Black History Month, the Vanderbilt University basketball team will suit up in special uniforms and recognize 21 local civil rights leaders at a game on Saturday, the Tennessean reports. Several legal luminaries are among the honorees, including Adolpho Birch Jr., George Barrett, Coyness Ennix and Sen. Thelma Harper.
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Right-wing Extremist Will Not Be Labeled ‘Terrorist’

Classifying the crimes of Robert Doggart, the Tennessee man charged with planning to attack a Muslim community in New York, is drawing controversy, the Times Free Press reports. Attorneys representing the Muslim community of Islamberg said that Doggart meets the qualifications of domestic terrorism, but federal prosecutors are using nonterrorism charges because the current statutes are largely aimed at foreign radical groups, and not homegrown extremists like South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof or Doggart.
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Memphis Judge Moderates ABA Panel on Batson Decision

Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit moderated a panel reviewing the 30 years of the Batson v. Kentucky decision of 1986. It ruled that a prosecutor’s exercise of race-based peremptory challenges to jurors violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The panelists at the ABA Midyear Meeting event called the ruling a “tremendous failure,” and said that lawyers need to be trained on how to choose a jury without excluding due to race. Read more at the ABA website.
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SCOTUS Will Not Hear Texas Voter ID Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from Texas that seeks to revive the strict voter ID requirements a lower court found had a discriminatory effect on minorities, reports Reuters. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that the 2011 Texas law violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act, and the appeals court directed a federal district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law was actually intended to be discriminatory, rather than merely having a discriminatory effect. A hearing on that case was scheduled for today but has been delayed following a request from President Trump’s administration. 
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Obama Honors Civil Rights Sites with Federal Designations

President Barack Obama signed an order yesterday designating three civil rights related sites as national monuments. They are: a downtown section of Birmingham, Alabama, that includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing; a bus station in Anniston, Alabama, where a group of “freedom riders” were attacked; and the site of a post-Civil War community of freed slaves near Beaufort County, South Carolina. The National Park Service will oversee these new areas as part of the federal park system, National Public Radio reports.

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Report: Law Firm Diversity Slow to Change

A new report by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) indicates that diversity in law firms is moving at an “incredibly slow pace of change.” A review of the report by the ABA Journal indicates that the percentage of female and black associates at law firms increased slightly in 2016, though the representation is still below 2009 levels. The report also found increases in the percentage of female and black partners, as well as increases in Asian and Hispanic lawyers at the partner and associate levels. In releasing the report, NALP Executive Director James Leipold said, “While it is encouraging to see small gains in most areas this year, the incredibly slow pace of change continues to be discouraging.”

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Activist Angela Davis to Visit Memphis

Author, scholar and civil rights activist Angela Davis will be the keynote speaker at a banquet Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Memphis. Davis, 72, is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has lectured across the country and is the author of nine books including, “Women, Race, and Class,” “Are Prisons Obsolete?” and “The Meaning of Freedom.” The event is sponsored by Just City, Rhodes College and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis. Get ticket information on the event Facebook page or read more in the Commercial Appeal.

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