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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Memphis Law Hosting MLK50 Symposium

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will host a symposium and luncheon on Monday as part of a week-long event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will serve as keynote speaker at the luncheon. Topics will cover the state of civil and human rights issues, as well as racial and economic equity 50 years after MLK’s death. The symposium will be held at the Peabody Hotel.
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Memphis NBA Chapter Hosts MLK Programming on Feb. 23

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association is hosting a day of programming at the Fogelman Business Center in Memphis. The event, starting at 9 a.m. on Feb. 23, will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility. Speakers include local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges. Contact Florence Johnson, 901-725-7520, for more information.
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 


  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219


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Low Number of Female, Minority U.S. Attorney Candidates a Concern to ABA

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass told Attorney General Jeff Sessions she is concerned with the low percentage of women and minority candidates appointed to U.S. attorney positions, the ABA Journal reports. Of 57 U.S. attorney candidates proposed by the Trump administration so far, one was black and three were women. “A justice system that is not representative of the diverse community it serves risks losing its legitimacy in the eyes of those who come before it,” Bass wrote in a letter to Sessions.
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New TBJ: How the 38-Year 'Geier' Case Changed Higher Education

Follow the 38-year legal battle to secure educational opportunity for African-Americans in Tennessee's public colleges and universities, in this issue. Written by C.A. Gonzalez, who was the mediator and court's monitor in the case, the article explains all the twists, turns and intrigue of the famous Geier case that changed everything. Also, TBA President Lucian T. Pera explains what he sees as a market failure for lawyers as well as what the solutions could be. In a feature article, Tennessee's 1865 Constitution and "the return of civil government" is examined by former TBA President Sam D. Elliott. Read the December Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Black Farmers Association Calls on Trump to Accept Ruling in USDA Suit

The Memphis-based Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association called on President Donald Trump to accept a court ruling that could lead to payouts over $1 billion to growers who were denied assistance based on race, The Commercial Appeal reports. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., last week issued an order denying a USDA ruling that would have thrown out the claims of 15,000 black farmers. The case was originally brought by Earnest Lee Boyland, a farmer from Mason, Tennessee.
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Alexander, Corker, Haslam Favor Moving Forrest Bust from Capitol

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both support moving a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee Capitol and relocating it to a museum, Humphrey on the Hill reports. In a statement, Gov. Bill Haslam concurred, saying he strongly encouraged the Capitol Commission and Historical Commission to act. “My position on this issue has not changed — I do not believe Nathan Bedford Forrest should be one of the individuals we honor at the Capitol,” he said, the Times Free Press reports. Tennessee’s gubernatorial candidates are split, however, with only the two Democratic candidates supporting the statue’s removal.
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Memphis to Sue State to Remove Confederate Statues

The city of Memphis is prepared to sue the state of Tennessee to remove confederate statues from city owned land, Fox 13 reports. “There is no place in the city of Memphis for signs or symbols of hatred, bigotry or racism,” said City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd. The city must get approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission before a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest can be removed. That issue is currently being taken up in court, but a second statue of Jefferson Davis has not yet been addressed. City Attorney Bruce McMullen said the city will add him to the list of statues they want down on an amended waiver adding if that is denied, “We are prepared to go all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court on this issue.”
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Law Firm Mourns Loss of Legal Assistant Killed in White Supremacist Attack

The Miller Law Group in Charlottesville, Virginia, described legal assistant Heather Heyer as “empathetic,” “conscientious” and with a good sense of humor, memorializing her just days after she was killed in a white supremacist attack. reports that Heyer, who was killed when a man drove his car into a group of people who were protesting a white nationalist rally, had worked at the firm for five years. “I’m going to miss her,” said firm attorney Larry Miller. “It’s a small firm. It’s like family.”
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ABA President Condemns Charlottesville Violence

American Bar Association President Linda Klein responded yesterday to weekend violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one protester and two officers dead. “The ABA knows the principles that govern our country – respect for the rule of law, tolerance for the beliefs and freedoms of others, and a deep dedication to uphold the Constitution – are strong and will prevail over the forces of hate and racism," she said.
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City Boosts Grants to Strike-era Sanitation Workers

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to increase the honorary grants going to city workers who participated in the 1968 sanitation strike, the Commercial Appeal reports. The 10 retirees and four active employees will get $70,000 grants, with all taxes paid by the city. Earlier the council had passed Mayor Jim Strickland's proposal to give the strikers all-taxes-paid $50,000 grants.

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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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