News

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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Memphis Law Diversity Event Set for February

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the University of Memphis Black Law Students Association will hold its inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet on Feb. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Guest House at Graceland. The event is designed to bring together judges, lawyers, law students and community leaders to highlight a wide array of contributions and achievements made by diverse individuals. Former ABA President and current Leadership Council on Legal Diversity President Robert Grey will deliver the keynote address. Tickets are $50 for students and $100 for all others and can be purchased online.

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Obama Signs Bill to Review Civil Rights-Era Killings

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get a fresh look under legislation signed by President Barack Obama, PBS reports. The measure, signed last week, extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which have been closed for decades. It also provides federal resources to help local jurisdictions look into the cases, extends the time frame of cases to be considered and requires the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on these deaths.

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Memphis NAACP Director Retires

Madeline Taylor, who has served for more than two decades with the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, retired last week, WREG reports. Taylor worked as a social worker and a teacher, as a Memphis City Council member and in a number of corporate roles before being named director of the Memphis chapter. She had been involved informally with the organization for some 20 years. “I've worked on issues as far as criminal justice, police department, housing, healthcare,” Taylor said. “It's been very much a part of my life, my family's life for a long time, so it has been hard to say goodbye.”

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Nashville Lawyer Named to National Latina Commission

Nashville attorney Alé Dalton has been chosen to serve on the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Latina Commission, which studies and recommends remedies for barriers to advancement faced by Latina lawyers. Dalton is one of nine delegates chosen nationwide. Her term will run through September 2017. Dalton serves on the healthcare team at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, assisting clients with a wide range of transactional, operational and regulatory matters with a focus on healthcare mergers and acquisitions. Read more from the firm.

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Incidents of Harassment, Intimidation Up After Election

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there have been almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation since the election of Donald Trump. “People have experienced harassment at school, at work, at home, on the street, in public transportation, in their cars, in grocery stores and other places of business, and in their houses of worship," the group writes in its report “10 Days After.” Incidents against Trump supporters also have been reported.

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Alabama Gets 1st African-American Female DA

The vote margin on election night was so narrow it triggered an automatic recount, but it is now official: Lynneice Washington will be the first African-American woman elected as a district attorney in Alabama. “This is a historic moment,” said Washington, who currently serves as presiding judge of the Bessemer Municipal Court. She defeated Republican Bill Veitch, who was appointed to the post following retirement of the former district attorney. AL.com has more on the race.

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Knoxville Event to Explore ‘Gavel Gap’ Issues

The Knoxville Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society is hosting an event next Tuesday to discuss the so-called “Gavel Gap” – the differences between the race and gender composition of the courts and the communities they serve. Federal District Court Judge Pamela L. Reeves will lead the discussion. Heavy appetizers and drinks will be provided. The event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Knoxville Collective, 923 North Central St., Knoxville 37917. RSVP online.

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Implicit Bias Conference Draws 150+ in Memphis

The University of Memphis School of Law played host to more than 150 attendees today for a program called “Implicit (Unconscious) Bias: A New Look at an Old Problem.” Panelists explored the social science of implicit bias; examined the manifestations of bias in education, law enforcement, the media and business; and offered thoughts on a way forward. For more on the program visit the school's website.

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Lipscomb Renames Institute to Honor Fred Gray

Lipscomb University celebrated the renaming of its Institute for Law, Justice & Society in honor of civil rights attorney Fred Gray at a gala dinner Saturday in Nashville. Gray argued and won landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court four times before he was 30 and represented clients like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Among those reflecting on Gray's legacy at the event were Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. See photos from the event.

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Nashville Library Hosts Civil Rights Icon

The Nashville Public Library is hosting civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis for a public lecture and book signing Nov. 19. The free event is open to the public and will take place at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School, 613 17th Ave. N. Lewis has been named the 2016 Nashville Public Library Literary Award Honoree. His three-part book “March” is a vivid firsthand account of his lifelong struggle for civil rights and human rights. The first book in the trilogy will be the 2017 Nashville Reads selection. Volunteers are needed to help with the event. Sign up here to help out.

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Memphis Law Hosts Implicit Bias Conference

The University of Memphis School of Law is hosting a conference on implicit bias next Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event “A New Look at an Old Problem” will explore what implicit bias is, how it operates, how to recognize it and how to manage its influence. Speakers include U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice B. Donald, District Court Judge Jon P. McCalla, Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan H. Michael, immediate past ABA President Paulette Brown and a host of law professors from across the country. See the full program or register online.

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DOJ Monitoring Polls in 67 Cities, Including Memphis

The U.S. Justice Department has sent more than 500 staffers to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states today to monitor voting, including polls in Shelby County. The staff are charged with making sure voters are treated fairly, civil rights are not violated and provisional ballots are handed out on a consistent basis. Shelby County is the only location in Tennessee that made the DOJ list, but election officials said the department has been sending poll workers to the county for several years, News 5 reports. Nationwide, the department is fielding close to 300 fewer poll workers than in 2012, the Associated Press reports.

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Apply Now for Law Student Leadership Program

Applications are being accepted now through Dec. 16 for the 2017 class of the Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI), the TBA Young Lawyers Division's six-month training and development program for law students. Now in its seventh year, the DLI is designed to develop skills to succeed as an attorney, empower students to contribute to the legal community, match students to mentors in a variety of practice areas, and build relationships among students of diverse backgrounds. Interested applicants must be enrolled in a Tennessee law school, be in their second, third or fourth year of study, and be a TBA law student member.

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Group Calls for Investigation of Nashville Police Practices

Nashville-based Gideon’s Army, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to keeping the city’s children out of the criminal justice system, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over Metro Nashville Police Department’s traffic stop policies and practices. The group based its complaint on a study of nearly two million traffic stops that occurred over a five-year period. It says the review shows severe and institutional racial discrimination by the city’s police force. The group also issued a 200-page report called “Driving While Black” to support its claims. The report outlined 12 key findings and 11 demands. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Stricter ABA Standards Approved for Bar Pass Rates

A proposal to tighten bar passage rate standards for ABA-approved law schools was approved Friday by the council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Under the proposal, 75 percent of a school’s graduates must pass a bar exam within a two-year period. Under the current rules, schools have several ways to meet the requirement. According to the ABA Journal, the proposal is expected to go the ABA House of Delegates in February 2017. Most council members voted in favor of the proposal, though there was discussion that the change might decrease diversity in the profession. Those supporting the measure argued that such concerns were based on anecdotal evidence only.

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ACLU: Police Misconduct Rooted in History, Policy

The use of police to enforce the social order and impose public policy changes has played a key role in fomenting tensions between communities of color and law enforcement officials, a national legal expert said Saturday in Nashville. Jeff Robinson, ACLU's deputy legal director and director of the nonprofit organization Center for Justice, cited historical examples, statistical reserach and public policy in his remarks. “When you look at the history, it’s easy to understand why they’re behaving like this,” he said. “And so now, we have to do something about breaking that connection.” The event, Broken Policing: Windows for Change, marked the launch of the ACLU of Tennessee’s police accountability campaign, which hopes to foster public safety, prevent abuse in encounters between law enforcement and civilians, and improve community-police relations. The Tennessean has more from the gathering.

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ACLU to Hold Discussion on Race, Policing

ACLU of Tennessee is hosting a group discussion Saturday that will focus on the realities of race and policing in America and how law enforcement and community groups can work together for positive change. Broken Policing: Windows for Change will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St. The discussion will be led by Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director of the national ACLU and director of the ACLU Center for Justice. The event is free and open to the public.

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DOJ to Help Memphis Reform Policing

The U.S. Department of Justice will begin working with the city of Memphis to review police policies – a task that could take between five and 15 years, according to Joe Brann who has overseen similar collaborative reform processes in other cities. The goal of the collaboration is to create a “cultural transformation” within the force that will benefit the department and rebuild community trust. A number of lawmakers and officials from Memphis, as well as U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton, had asked the department to help the city undertake a reform process. Local Memphis.com has more on the story.

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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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