Civil Rights

Righteous-IndignationThe public learned this week that the Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit dismissed a complaint of judicial misconduct against Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.   The order followed a year-long investigation by Special Counsel Jeffrey Bellin.  The roughly 70-page Report of the Special Committee appears nonpartisan, thorough, and fair.

The complaint stemmed from a lecture Judge Jones gave to the University of Pennsylvania Federalist Society chapter in February 2013.  Among the complainants’ claims was that, during her lecture, Judge Jones suggested she believed that members of certain races were predisposed to commit violent crimes.  With no recording of the event, witnesses disagreed about exactly what she said.  Was she talking about genetic determinism?  Or was she only referring to the objective fact that, for whatever reason, our nation’s prisoners are disproportionately black and Latino?  The subsequent independent investigation concluded that “whatever she said initially, it is clear that Judge Jones used the question-and-answer period to clarify that she did not adhere to such views,” rejecting the complaint’s version of her speech. The D.C. Circuit cleared her of all of the charges of misconduct, including this one.

When the complaint was first filed, I defended Judge Jones. Defending her was relatively easy….

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Judge Edith Jones

I did not say such things because I have never believed them and have never said them.

– Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit, denying she made offensive comments attributed to her by an ethics complaint. A panel of federal judges dismissed the complaint, but various civil-rights groups and legal ethicists are appealing the dismissal.

Back in November 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called “nuclear option,” eliminating the threat of squelching the president’s executive branch and judicial nominations by filibuster. Under the new rules, a nominee only needs 51 votes to break a potential filibuster, instead of the 60 votes previously needed. Democratic senators lubricated nominees’ paths to confirmation. Finally, we were told, a cantankerous Republican minority could no longer block all the well-qualified, uncontroversial nominees that the president had waiting in the queue.

Nevertheless, yesterday the Senate voted to reject President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The 47 – 52 vote failed to reach the 51 votes necessary to achieve cloture and advance the nomination. Seven Democratic senators — Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, John Walsh of Montana and Chris Coons of Delaware — opposed the nominee. Adegbile is perhaps best known for his work leading litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, often known simply as LDF.

No Republicans voted against their party line. Perhaps some of them opposed his nomination on principle; perhaps some reflexively opposed an Obama nominee. The Democrats who voted against Adegbile, however, took a clear and conscious against him. Effectively, Democrats killed Adegbile’s nomination.

Why? Despite his other professional accomplishments, Adegbile’s problems in the Senate can be summed up in a word: Mumia. In six words: convicted and controversial cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal . . . .

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It really does get better — and better, and better — for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

This past June, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), resulting in more-equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples for purposes of federal benefits. Around the country, 15 states and the District of Columbia now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which bans workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, is closer than ever to passage, having already made it through the Senate by a comfortable margin (64-32, reflecting bipartisan support).

Meanwhile, in the private sector, employers are becoming more and more welcoming of LGBT individuals. That’s the top-line finding of the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Corporate Equality Index — in which law firms are particularly well-represented….

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Late last week, Michael Brown and 24 of his friends and family met at a Charleston, South Carolina restaurant for a farewell party for his cousin. After waiting about two hours for a table, a shift manager at the Wild Wing Cafe told the party to leave. Did I mention these folks were black? Oh, well, they were black. And why weren’t they getting seated?

According to the shift manager, it was because a white patron felt “threatened” by the group, and the manager felt obliged to respect this woman’s delusion by keeping the black diners waiting in the lobby before ultimately kicking them out.

Cue the Chief Justice: “Things have changed in the South.”

Seriously though, so far this ordeal has elicited calls for a boycott, but legal action has been mostly overlooked, which is odd since the story brings back memories of one of the biggest discrimination suits of the last 20 years…

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Discriminatory bottle service for old dudes?

* When it comes to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, corporate personhood only goes so far. Religious freedoms apply to human beings, not their businesses, and the Third Circuit agrees. [New York Times]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector added 2,800 jobs in July after major losses in the two months prior. We’re sure that the eleventy billion members of the class of 2013 will be very pleased. [Am Law Daily]

* Not a Nigerian scam: Biglaw firms in Washington, D.C. — like Covington & Burling, Greenberg Traurig, and Williams Mullen — are busy chasing business in Africa. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* A New Jersey municipal judge faces ethics charges due to his “extra-judicial activities” with an exotic dancer. It seems she appeared before him in his courtroom and in his bed. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* Tawana Brawley, the woman who dragged a New York prosecutor into an elaborate rape hoax (complete with race-baiting), is finally making payments on a defamation verdict. [New York Post]

* “Either I’m a stupid lawyer, or I’m stupid for thinking the court will enforce the rights of guys.” Former Cravath attorney and men’s rights advocate Roy Den Hollander is at it again. [New York Daily News]

* Morehouse College will be the fifth undergraduate school in the nation to publish a law journal. This is basically a case study in what it means to begin law school gunning while in college. [Daily Report]

* Things are pretty dire for New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. Not even “that [law grad] who takes pictures of himself in his underwear in the mirror” would vote for him. [Delaware News Journal]

* Julius Chambers, famous civil rights lawyer and former leader of the NAACP LDF, RIP. [NBC News]

The weather is finally heating up here in New York City, so this seems like a good time to remind everybody of their rights to unburden themselves of oppressive upper body clothing.

It’s cool, it’s for charity.

It’s legal, and if the cops hassle you about it, you might be able to really cash in…

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425G – Remembered to lift the seat

* First the law school rankings, now urine-based video games? It’s been a whirlwind week of heavy journalism for U.S. News. [U.S. News]

* Did you ask for a diorama of the Supreme Court? Because I did… [Washington Post]

* What do SCOTUSblog and “Girls” share in common? If you guessed that Tom Goldstein spends most of his day at the office naked, you’re (probably) wrong. [Peabody Awards]

* Casinos have systematically driven men out of the bartending and cocktail serving market. They use a fig leaf to protect themselves from Title VII… apparently literally. [Workplace Prof Blog]

* Dartmouth professor Sonu Bedi argues that same-sex marriage is really about the separation of church and state. You say potato, I say egregious denial of basic rights. [Huffington Post]

* UBS trying to get out of an SEC case. Color me surprised. [Dealbreaker]

* Central New Mexico Community College does not want to hear that sex talk. It makes Sol the Suncat sad. [Popehat]

* As mentioned before, there’s a new legal dispute over whether or not Sherlock Holmes has lapsed into the public domain. Alex Heimbach of Slate puts the case under the proverbial magnifying glass. [Slate]

‘They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said… sure, it’s better than going to jail!’

* President Obama nominated Thomas Perez, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to be the next secretary of labor. Republicans, of course, are all butthurtt, calling this a “needlessly divisive nomination.” [New York Times]

* Let’s get ready to RUMBLE! Be prepared to see some legal heavyweights next week when the Prop 8 and DOMA cases are argued before the Supreme Court, including Paul Clement and Ted Olson. [National Law Journal]

* How appropriate that Justice Scalia should break out the Spanglish for an Arizona voter registration law that requires proof of U.S. citizenship. Our beloved Wise Latina probably wasn’t too thrilled by this. [New York Times]

* To promote pay equity in law firms, the ABA is encouraging bar groups to hold conferences on the topic. The question on everyone’s minds, of course, is whether those conferences are billable. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Law schools aren’t the only places where transparency is lacking. Jeh Johnson, the DOD’s former general counsel, thinks the secrecy swirling around drone strikes is bad for the government. [At War / New York Times]

* The members of Debevoise’s displaced trusts and estates practice team have been picked up by Loeb & Loeb. Enjoy your new home, and your new — presumably lower — compensation package. [Am Law Daily]

* Lindsay Lohan took a plea deal yesterday, and instead of going to jail, she’ll be going to rehab to be kept under lock and key for 90 days. I’d say this is bad for her career, but who are we kidding? [Los Angeles Times]

* Casey Anthony’s trustee just answered my prayers. He wants the ex-MILF to sell her story to pay off her debts. I demand that LiLo be cast in the role! She’s the only one broken enough to pull it off. [Washington Post]

Maybe people in Mississippi should watch this to figure out why the Voting Rights Act is still important.

My mother was born in 1950 in Mississippi. I’ve been to Mississippi. There are still brothers trying to escape to freedom from Mississippi.

Today the big story (at least in liberal circles) is that Mississippi finally officially ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, after two Ole Miss employees saw the movie Lincoln and decided to look into why their state hadn’t officially ratified the amendment. You can’t make that up: Mississippi needed a Spielberg movie to remind them to ratify the amendment banning slavery. I can’t wait till Mississippi sends an expedition to Isla Nublar to check into this whole “dinosaur situation” “Jesus Horse situation.”

You can see why liberals love this story. It’s the perfect deep south story: a tradition of holding people in bondage, slow response times, and incompetence.

And I’d leave it at that.

Except that as the Supreme Court gears up to eviscerate the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act, it’s important to remember that not all states are created equal….

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