News

House Passes Controversial Voter Registration Bill

House lawmakers have passed a bill that places new restrictions on voter registration efforts, though its passage was not without controversy, the Tennessean reports. The measure, backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would require groups leading voter registration efforts to undergo training and potentially face fines for submitting too many incomplete forms. Critics of the bill say it would criminalize voter registration drives, and claim the bill was motivated in response to the surge of African-American voter registration efforts prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
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5 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Mediation Between Black Farmers Group and Seed Company Hits Impasse

After four months, mediation between the $3 billion-valued Stine Seed Company and a collaborative of five black farmers affiliated with the Memphis-based Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association has ended without resolution, The Commercial Appeal reports. "No new court date has been set," Patricia Rogers, a spokeswoman for the Memphis farmers' group wrote in a media alert. "The black farmers could be headed for a trial with the billion-dollar seed giant." Filed in April 2018, the group's lawsuit alleges fraud and discrimination involving soybean seeds a Stine representative sold the farmers.
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LGBT Section Proposes Changes to TBA Bylaws

The TBA LGBT Law Section will introduce proposed changes to the Tennessee Bar Association bylaws, specifically to delete Paragraph 7 in its entirety and to insert a new paragraph to add “sex; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression” to the TBA non-discrimination policy. The section seeks to correct any ambiguity in the current bylaws, offering more specific protection for lawyers and to encourage diversity within the profession. These proposed changes were endorsed by the TBA Committee on Ethnic and Racial Diversity and will be introduced to the Board of Governors in its upcoming meeting this weekend, marking the first step in consideration of the proposal.

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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Incoming Law Deans More Diverse Than Ever

A wave of women and people of color have been named to law school deanships in recent months, Law.com reports. Just in the past week, Stetson University College of Law and the University of Cincinnati elevated African-American women to dean, a first for both schools. At Stanford Law School, longtime professor Jenny Martinez, who is Hispanic, will assume the deanship in April, and G. Marcus Cole, who is black, is slated to become the first nonwhite dean of the Notre Dame University Law School this summer, among other notable hires. Observers within the legal academy say that targeted mentorship, an increase in minority law professors throughout the academy and events such as this week’s Fourth National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference are filling the pipeline of diverse candidates for leadership positions.
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Underrepresented Students Explore Career Opportunities at UTK Law Program

A group of nearly 70 Knoxville high school students from underrepresented groups recently heard a presentation from Sawyers Belk, attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, about the career opportunities that exist with a legal degree. The event was a part of the Diversity Pipeline Program. Over the course of the students’ day-long visit, they attended a typical law class with criminal law Professor Joy Radice, engaged in a question and answer session with current students, learned about resources that aid student success, and heard from alumni about how to avoid common pitfalls in their careers.
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MBA Accepting Applications for Summer Law Internship Program

The Memphis Bar Association is now accepting applications for its Summer Law Internship Program, which seeks to develop and nurture an interest in the legal profession among young people from underrepresented groups. Students accepted into the program are placed in a legal environment and work a total of 60 hours over four weeks. Upon completion, they will receive a $500 stipend during a graduation ceremony to be held in early July. Minority high school students who wish to apply must complete the application by 5 p.m. on March 29.
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Georgia Congressman John Lewis to receive ABA Thurgood Marshall Award

The American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will honor Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis with its 2019 Thurgood Marshall Award. The award will be presented at the Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m. at the Westin St. Francis Hotel during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties and human rights in the United States.
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UTK Law Honors 5 During Diversity Education Fundraiser

The University of Tennessee College of Law honored two of its alumni and three current students during the 19th Annual Julian Blackshear Jr. Gala on Feb. 8. Alumna Danielle Whitworth Barnes, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Human Services, served as keynote speaker. Adjunct professor and attorney Brooklyn Sawyers Belk was recognized with the RBJ Campbelle Award for her “courageous, selfless, and ongoing commitment to fairness and equality for all people.” Students Shannador McClain, Daniel Zydel and Chidimma Nwaneri were recognized by the Black Leadership Student Association for their commitment to leadership and diversity at the College of Law. The Blackshear Gala, named for one of the college’s first African American graduates, serves as a fundraiser for diversity education.
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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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Legal Diversity Program Accepting Applications for 2019 Program

The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) is now accepting applications for the 2019 1L Scholars Program, which gives law students the opportunity to work side-by-side with attorneys from LCLD member organizations. LCLD Scholars have many additional benefits, including attendance at the 1L Scholars Summit in Atlanta and the opportunity to participate in a mock interview with attorneys from LCLD member law firms. Applications are due Feb. 15.

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Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer Expands to Tennessee

Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer PA has opened offices in Memphis and Nashville. The firm, which says it is the nation’s largest minority and women owned law firm with more than 380 lawyers, serves clients from 23 offices in the United States and abroad across a spectrum of industries in more than 40 areas of practice including litigation, business, real estate and governmental law. The new offices are co-managed by partners Minton P. Mayer and Howard B. Hayden, who were previously partners at Wiseman Ashworth Law Group PLC.

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Tennessean: No People of Color in Tennessee's Top Congressional Staff Positions

Tennessee congressional staffs are among the lowest in the the country in their diversity, The Tennessean reports. According to a study released last week by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, those who serve as full committee staff directors, personal office chiefs of staff, legislative directors and communications directors of Tennessee's U.S. House and U.S. Senate members, were all white. About 25 percent of Tennesseans identify as being persons of color.

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Midterm Elections See Surge of Women, Minorities Elected to DA Positions

The 2018 midterm elections last week saw a surge of new voices elected in legal and judicial positions across the country, including more women and minorities elected district attorney than ever before, The Brennan Center for Justice reports. This trend represents a marked improvement  from 2014, when a study found that 95 percent of the nation’s elected prosecutors were white, and just one percent were women of color.
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Applications Open for 2019 Diversity Leadership Institute

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 class of the Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI), the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division's six-month training and development program for law students. Now in its ninth 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 diverse variety of practice areas and build relationships among students of diverse backgrounds. Interested applicants must be enrolled in a Tennessee law school and must be in their second, third or fourth year of study. To be accepted into the program, students must be TBA law student members.
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New Study Finds Gender and Racial Bias Endemic in Legal Profession

A new study confirms widespread gender and racial bias permeates hiring, promotion, assignments and compensation in the legal industry, the ABA reports today. Fifty-eight percent of women attorneys of color, and half of white women lawyers surveyed say they have been mistaken for administrative staff or janitors, in contrast to only seven percent of white male lawyers reporting a similar occurrence, according to the new study, You Can’t Change What You Can’t See. Conducted by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, on behalf of The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and The American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, the report examines implicit gender and racial bias in legal workplaces and offers new solutions and tools for interrupting bias across the legal profession.

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1940 Cold Case Murder of NAACP Activist to be Reopened

The 1940 homicide of civil rights activist Elbert Williams has been reopened in Haywood County, The Jackson Sun reports. Garry Brown, District Attorney for the 28th Judicial District of Tennessee, today reopened the investigation into the unsolved homicide. Elbert Williams is recognized as the first known NAACP member to be killed for his civil rights work. Williams was a participant in the Brownsville NAACP branch’s 1940 effort to register African-American voters. 
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LMU Duncan to Host Talk on Unsolved Murder of a Civil Rights Activist

The LMU Duncan School of Law will host a free talk from attorney Jim Emison on Elbert Williams, an NAACP official who was murdered for his civil rights work and whose death remains unsolved. The presentation, set for noon on Aug. 24, will be the first in a series of programs on civil rights. To register call (865) 545-5339 or email April Hurley.
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Bradley Awards Diversity Scholarship to Vandy Law Student

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP has awarded its annual diversity scholarship to Vanderbilt Law student Adrielle L. Conner. The scholarship promotes the education of well-qualified law students who reflect the diversity of the legal marketplace and who are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession. Each scholarship includes a summer clerkship in one of the firm’s offices. Conner has worked as a Community Enterprise Clinic research volunteer, focusing on employment law research. She also previously interned with the American Civil Liberties Union in Fresno, Calif., researching, analyzing, and drafting memoranda concerning ways to reduce exclusionary practices in schools. She will clerk in the firm’s Nashville office this summer.
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Governor Signs Civil Rights Cold Case Bill into Law

Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday signed into law legislation creating the Tennessee Civil Rights Crimes Information, Reconciliation, and Research Center. Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, were the sponsors of the legislation, which becomes effective immediately. The center will be housed within the Office of Minority Affairs, and will serve as a "civil rights crimes remembrance and reconciliation repository, function as an informational clearinghouse on unsolved civil rights crimes and cold cases in this state, and coordinate volunteer activities."  A website and toll-free number will be set up to receive information related to unsolved civil rights crimes and cold cases. 

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Lawsuit Claims Bledsoe County Student Suspended Because of Her Race

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court, a biracial student says Bledsoe County Schools delivered an overly harsh punishment for punching another student who called her a racial epithet, the Times Free Press reports. The student, who was suspended for 365 days, and her mother say the suspension was harsher because of her race and was done in part as retaliation for reporting “years of racially demeaning comments.” The suit does not name a desired amount of damages, but asks for a jury trial. 
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TBI: Hate Crimes on Rise in Tennessee

The number of criminal offenses motivated by a known bias increased 10.5 percent last year, according to data recently released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. The Tennessean reports that the TBI received reports of 199 hate crimes last year, up from 180 in 2016. Of those crimes, racial, ethnicity and ancestry bias was the most frequently reported motivation, accounting for 56.8 percent of the reports. Assault offenses were the most frequently reported, followed by intimidation.
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CRED Seeking New Membership

The TBA Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CRED) recently met to discuss goals and plans for the upcoming bar year. Led by Terica Smith of the District Attorney General’s Office in Jackson, CRED works to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The committee is currently seeking members to assist with the planning and execution of activities and development of diverse individuals within the vocation. If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact TBA staff coordinator Jarod Word.
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Civil Rights Cold Case Bill Advances

A bill that would create a state body to investigate civil rights cold cases is nearing passage in the legislature, the Memphis Daily News reports. A key project of soon-to-retire state Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, the measure would set up the Tennessee Civil Rights Crimes Information, Reconciliation and Research Center, which would delve into unsolved civil rights crimes. It passed unanimously in the House yesterday and has cleared the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. It is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville.
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