Are clients with ‘Black-sounding’ names underserved?

A study conducted by Yale University lecturer Brian Libgober revealed that clients with Black-sounding names are less likely to get a response from lawyers in states with less legal competition.

Libgober’s California study found that clients with white-sounding names received 50 percent more replies than those with Black-sounding names. However, in a follow-up study conducted in Florida, Libgober found no evidence that lawyers were considering perceived race to determine whether or not to return calls.

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Where are the Black partners in big law?

According to The American Lawyer’s recently released Diversity Scorecard, the firm with the highest percentage of minority attorneys and partners — 32.5% and 23.9%, respectively — also has zero Black partners. Let that marinate.

Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy is a 371-lawyer immigration firm with its primary office in New York. Its top prize in the diversity ranking is a step in the right direction, but I must ask, where are the Black partners?

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New bill seeks penalty for placing racially motivated 911 calls

Oregon could adopt a new bill which would allow victims of racially motivated 911 calls to sue callers for up to $250. The catch is that victims of these calls would have to “prove the caller had racist intent, and that the caller summoned a police officer to purposefully discriminate or damage a person’s reputation.”

The measure, which was approved by the House on Monday, was created by Oregon’s three Black lawmakers in response to a wave of publicized incidents where predominately white civilians across the country have called the police to investigate Black people for simply existing in public while Black. 

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The National Black Lawyers Top 100 Names New Executive Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Black Lawyers Top 100 is pleased to announce that Annamaria Steward of Washington, D.C. has been named as its first Executive Director. She joins the organization with nearly 20 years of experience and a reputation for providing exceptional leadership.

Before joining The National Black Lawyers, Steward served as Director of Leadership and Strategic Development for the D.C. Bar and Associate Dean of Students at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She is also a former president of the D.C. Bar, the largest unified bar in the country, and was the first African-American woman elected president of the voluntary Bar Association of the District of Columbia, a 148-year-old institution.

In her new role, Steward will be responsible for fostering organizational development which will include expanding the membership base, improving the breadth of membership benefits, and ultimately re-energizing the organization.

“It is important to me to recognize and celebrate African-American legal excellence,” Steward said. “I hope to harness the knowledge of these stalwarts of our profession to create a legal brain trust for our membership.”

As an attorney highly skilled in program design and implementation, strategic planning, and leadership development, Steward’s appointment will enable the organization to fulfill its mission for top tier African-American attorneys.

The National Black Lawyers is an honorary membership organization dedicated to promoting legal excellence. The organization’s membership is comprised of the nation’s most successful  African-American attorneys including legal giants like Willie Gary, Karen Evans, Ben Crump, and James Montgomery.

For more information about The National Black Lawyers, visit NBLtop100.org or follow The National Black Lawyers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

New bill combats maternal mortality rates among black mothers

 

The Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as a way of battling maternal mortality, which disproportionately impacts Black mothers in America.

Medicaid covers nearly half of all births in the United States, and coverage for postpartum women is limited to 60 days after giving birth. The MOMMIES Act seeks to expand Medicaid coverage to include up to one full year after giving birth

“Black women are nearly four times as likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than white women,” Sen. Booker said. “By expanding Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, we can begin to stem the rising tide of maternal mortality and close the egregious racial gaps that exist in maternal and infant health outcomes.”

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‘Not Reaching’ pouch designed to save Black lives during traffic stops

 

When she heard the story of how 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed by police in 2016, Jackie Carter decided that enough was enough.

Castile was driving with his girlfriend and her child when he was pulled over by Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez who claimed to see Castile reaching for his gun and fired several shots into the vehicle, killing Castile. In a video recording of the shooting, Castile can be heard saying he “wasn’t reaching” for his gun.

Carter’s device called “Not Reaching!” is a clear card-carrying pouch that clips onto the driver-side air vent. The pouch is designed to be a safe location for drivers to store the important documents that officers typically ask to see during routine traffic stops.

With more than 1,000 units sold, and even more given away, the “Not Reaching!” pouch could be the difference between life and death for Black drivers across the country.

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Univ. of Alabama’s first Black student receives honorary doctorate

 

Sixty years after she was expelled from the University of Alabama due to on-campus riots protesting her admission, 89-year-old Autherine Lucy Foster of Shiloh, Alabama, has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the university. 

Foster was first accepted to the University of Alabama in 1952, though she was not allowed to enroll at the university for another four years. Her initial acceptance had been rescinded because of her ethnicity, but a federal court order reversed the decision allowing her to enroll in 1956.

Foster attended the school for three days before being expelled due to violent riots following her admission. When her expulsion was annulled in 1988, she re-enrolled at the university and earned a master’s degree in education in 1991.

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Newly released Sandra Bland cellphone video sheds light on her arrest

 

Sandra Bland managed to record 39 seconds of video just before she was arrested for allegedly becoming confrontational during a traffic stop in July 2015. She was found dead in a county jail cell three days later, and the Waller County Sheriff’s Office determined her death to be a suicide.

According to Bland’s attorney, the cellphone footage was not a part of evidence turned over by investigators during the criminal case, and it directly refutes officer statements that Bland had become combative during the traffic stop.

Some believe that Bland’s case should be reopened in light of the new footage. What do you think?

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Florida deputies to be tried for shooting disabled man

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that two Brevard County Deputy Sheriffs must stand trial for their shooting of an unarmed man inside his home after family members asked law enforcement officers to Baker Act the disabled man. The appellate panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Adalberto Jordan, Britt Grant, and Frank Hull, reversed an order granting summary judgment in favor of the officers, finding that significant factual issues must be decided by the jury. The deputies fired thirteen bullets at the victim, eleven of which went through a closed door with the victim standing inside his home where he lived alone since his elderly parents died two months earlier. Eight bullets struck Christopher Greer through the closed door, resulting in his fatal injuries at the scene. The case will now return to the District Court for the Middle District of Florida for a jury trial on the Civil Rights and excessive force counts.

The Eleventh Circuit held that “the task of weighing the credibility of police testimony against other evidence is the stuff of which jury trials are made.”

Plaintiff’s counsel and National Trial Lawyers members Douglas R. Beam and Riley H. Beam of Douglas R. Beam, P.A.  Benedict P. Kuehne and Michael T. Davis, of Kuehne Davis Law, P.A., and Marjorie Gadarian Graham issued a statement that “police shootings of innocent citizens are on the rise, and we applaud the Eleventh Circuit’s directive that juries are well-suited to the task of deciding whether the police are in fact responsible when using excessive force.” As the Eleventh Circuit explained, the “clearly established law” is that shooting a person through a closed door who has done nothing threatening and never posed an immediate danger violates the Fourth Amendment to be free from the use of excessive force.”

Plaintiff’s counsel are anxious to “bring this outrageous police shooting to a jury to hold the Brevard Sheriff’s Office responsible for this senseless disregard of a decent man’s life.”

For further information, contact Benedict P. Kuehne (305.789.5989), Michael T. Davis (305.789.5989), or Douglas or Riley Beam (321.723.6591).

This big firm was criticized for lack of diversity. Now it’s No. 1 for black lawyers, new report

ABA JOURNAL — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP came under fire for its lack of diversity when a photo of promoted partners, which appeared to include one white woman and 11 white men, was posted to social media in December 2018.

The firm found a bit of redemption in March. A report released by the nonprofit group Lawyers of Color found that Paul | Weiss had the highest percentage of black lawyers (8.27%) among the firms polled.

However, of the nearly 400 law firms studied, only 3.2% of lawyers were black, and black lawyers made up just 1.83% of partners. Big Law is working toward being more inclusive, but there is still a long way to go.

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