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EEOC Joins Office of U.S. Attorney, Bar Association and U.S. District Court in Continuing Legal Education Seminar

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Memphis District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will join several other government and educational entities in a continuing legal education seminar (CLE) on Nov. 12 at the National Civil Rights Museum, the federal agency announced today. The CLE is titled Journey to Justice: The Role of Law in Affecting Social Change as Examined Through the Legacy of Constance Baker Motley, Advocate and Jurist.

The late Judge Constance Baker Motley tells her life story in her autobiography, Equal Justice Under the Law. The autobiography also discusses Judge Motley's work as a staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In that role, Judge Motley drafted the complaint for the case, Brown v. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the practice of separate but equal schools was unconstitutional. Further, Judge Motley litigated numerous cases throughout the South which resulted in the desegregation of schools, colleges, hotels and recreational facilities on behalf of African-Americans. She also argued ten cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning nine of them.

The CLE will examine the legacy of Judge Motley from the perspective of professors, attorneys and federal judges. During the CLE program attendees will view a short film on the life and work of Judge Motley produced by Quinnipiac University, discussing many of the cases she litigated. One panel, comprised of Dean Peter Letsou of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis; J. Brook Lathram of Bass, Berry & Sims; and State Representative and Professor Lee Harris of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will examine two Supreme Court cases, Turner v. City of Memphis and Watson v. City of Memphis, along with other cases from the Sixth Circuit litigated by Judge Motley which resulted in the desegregation of Memphis's parks, recreational facilities and schools.

One of the speakers for the CLE is Raymond T. Diamond, professor at the Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University. Professor Diamond has written and lectured extensively about Brown v. Board of Education. Other participants are:

  • Senior District Judge Curtis L. Collier of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, who presided over the case Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, an action under the RICO statute, alleging an employer's attempt to suppress employee wages;
  • Senior District Judge William J. Haynes, Jr. of U.S. District Court for the Middle District Tennessee, who presided over the case Villegas v. Metro Gov't, a case involving the arrest and detention of an undocumented pregnant immigrant for whom he issued a U-Visa;
  • Senior District Judge Jon P. McCalla of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, who presided over the case Cole v. City of Memphis, which found the police sweep of Beale Street unconstitutional; and
  • U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, who ruled that the same-sex marriage ban in Mississippi was unconsti-tutional before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling earlier this summer. Judge Reeves also made national news earlier this year when he delivered a stirring speech (in a federal sentencing hearing) to three white males about Mississippi's history of lynching and senseless hate in a race/hate crime involving the murder of an African-American male.

Moderators and presenters include Judge Earnestine Dorse, judge, Memphis Municipal Court; Amber Floyd, president, Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association and senior associate of Wyatt, Tarrant, & Combs; Judge Bernice B. Donald, judge, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; and Connie Lewis Lensing, senior vice president legal of FedEx Express. 

"We are excited about the program because it will present Judge Motley to so many law students, law clerks, lawyers and citizens who lack knowledge of the work she conducted throughout the South to desegregate the region," said Faye A. Williams, the EEOC's regional attorney in Memphis, and one of the organizers of the CLE. "This CLE presents an opportunity for the public to gain knowledge about her work prior to her appointment to the federal bench in New York."

Pending approval, the CLE will offer four hours of credit for lawyers. For registration information, or to register, please go to Eventbrite. 

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at