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 Her initial acceptance had been rescinded because of her ethnicity, but a federal court order reversed the decision allowing her to enroll in 1956.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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Racism should be called racism, AP Stylebook changes journalistic guidelines

NBC NEWS — The Associated Press has announced that the AP Stylebook will now advise journalists to use the word racism to refer to acts of racism instead of evoking euphemisms like “racially charged,” and “racially motivated.”



“The terms racist and racism can be used in broad references or in quotations to describe the hatred of a race or, assertion of the superiority of one race over others,” the AP states. The new guidelines also encourage journalists to “think broadly about racial issues before having to make decisions on specific situations and stories.”

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Expert advice to police and civilians, how to overcome racial bias

Jennifer Eberhardt | Photo: Nana Kofi Nti via TIME

TIME — Jennifer Eberhardt is a psychology professor at Stanford University who won a MacArthur “genius grant”  for her study of bias.

In an interview with TIME, she explains how implicit bias can affect people of all age groups and ethnicities:

“This is something that everybody has to grapple with. We’re living in a society where we’re absorbing images and ideas all the time and it takes over who we are and how we see the world.”

Eberhardt says in her book that biases are shaped by our human instinct to sort the world, and they emerge when we are forced to make quick decisions.

Her suggestion for avoiding biased decisions is simple: slow down, and make a shift.

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Body-cam footage confirms police killed Willie McCoy while he was sleeping

THE GUARDIAN — Vallejo police released body-camera footage of 20-year-old Willie McCoy’s killing, which happened at a Bay-area Taco Bell in February. The footage confirms that Vallejo police did not try to wake McCoy nor talk to him before opening fire on his vehicle.

As he slept in the Taco Bell drive-thru, police spotted a gun in McCoy’s lap and proceeded to aim their weapons at his head. In the next few seconds, McCoy was shot at least 25 times by six officers.

McCoy’s family is represented by NBL Top 100 Executive Committee Member John L. Burris who says the family intends to file a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and police agency.

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Famous rappers urge Supreme Court to take First Amendment case

Chance the Rapper

CNN — Killer Mike, Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, Fat Joe and 21 Savage were among the group of artists and scholars named in a legal brief filed on March 6. The briefing urges the Supreme Court to hear a case involving Pittsburgh rapper Jamal Knox and determine whether his song lyrics are protected under the First Amendment.

Knox was found guilty of “terroristic threats and witness intimidation” and sentenced to two years in prison partially due to lyrics from a song that he wrote entitled “F*ck the Police.”

The artists and scholars urging Supreme Court involvement say that Knox’s song is a “political statement … that no reasonable person familiar with rap music would have interpreted as a true threat of violence.”

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