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Rodney & Etter Is Excited to Raise Civil Rights Arguments at the Inception of Obama’s Second Term

 

President Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States of America, gave his second inauguration speech on Monday, January 21, 2013, also the annual celebration of the birth date of civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  President Obama began his speech by referencing the ultimate law of the United States:  our Constitution.

 

Rodney & Etter, LLC (“R&E”) has a long history of supporting civil rights and promoting justice and equality for all.  Last year, R&E was honored to receive the Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council Professional Supplier Award of 2012.

 

MSDC

 R&E continues to fight for civil rights, wherever and whenever it sees injustice.  In September of 2012, R&E filed a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and others, for its violations of civil rights.  Kimberly Crutchfield was driving at night on the highway, when she suddenly came upon an NOPD car that was parked haphazardly across two lanes and beyond the slope of the highway, out of sight. Ms. Crutchfield died within 6 hours of the car accident, leaving behind two small children.

 

The case is a tragedy in itself, but what is even more of a tragedy is the fact that, according to Louisiana statute, all vehicles operating on Louisiana roads must have insurance, except for government-owned vehicles. Even if a citizen successfully maintains a claim against the City, the Louisiana Constitution allows governmental entities to decide if or when they pay judgments rendered against them.  This is a Catch-22 that should tell all citizens of Louisiana:  beware of getting injured by your government.

 
On January 25, 2013, Roy J. Rodney, Jr. argued in the Civil District Court of New Orleans that Ms. Crutchfield’s family had rights to sue the City of New Orleans for a meaningful judgment.  Chief Judge Piper Griffin denied the City’s filed exception to dismiss the case, allowing R&E to fight another day.  R&E is undeterred by the prospect of a tough legal battle to protect the constitutional and civil rights of Ms. Crutchfield’s family.

Rodney & Etter Receives the Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council Professional Supplier of the Year

Rodney & Etter, LLC is pleased to announce that their firm was nominated and received the award for Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council Professional Supplier of the Year. The National Minority Supplier Development Council presents this annual award to recognize exemplary achievements in minority development. National directors of minority supplier development programs at national member corporations must be nominated by a corporate CEO based on their huge impact on their corporate minority supplier development process and the minority business community.

The award was presented at the 2012 Gateway Conference, Excellence in Business Award & Scholarship Gala. This event is a half day marketplace that allows buyers and MBE suppliers to network with one another. All businesses that are highlighted have a track record of showcasing the best practices in Corporate/MBE partnerships, as well as, their penchant for being mutually profitable and successful.

Rodney & Etter, LLC is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise by Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council, and prides itself on having diverse staffing. New attorneys, paralegals, support personnel, as well as technical consultants, are recruited on a non-discriminatory basis. So, R&E, LLC is honored to receive the 2012 for the Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council Professional Supplier of the Year award.

Class Action Lawsuits Maybe Not so Dead After Wal-Mart Decision

While many legal analysts have predicted the “death of class actions” because of the United States Supreme Court decisions in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, the class action and contracts litigation firm, Rodney & Etter, LLC, believes the recent decision in a discrimination lawsuit brought by 700 African-American stock brokers against Merrill Lynch offers hope to anti-discrimination advocates.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal on Feb 24, 2011, the Merrill Lynch lawsuit was allowed to go forward, the result of a ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago.  In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling that the case should not go forward as a class action. Click here for a Reuters story; here for a Bloomberg story; here for the opinion.

The panel ruled that the question of whether the practices challenged by the plaintiffs had discriminatory effects would be best handled in a single case.

“The stakes in each of the plaintiffs’ claims are great enough to make individual suits feasible,” wrote the opinion’s author, Judge Richard Posner. “But the lawsuits will be more complex if . . . the question whether Merrill Lynch has violated the antidiscrimination statutes must be determined anew in each case. We have trouble seeing the downside of the limited class action treatment that we think would be appropriate in this case.”

Nashville broker George McReynolds filed the suit in 2005 on behalf of a group of brokers and trainees that worked in the firm’s global private client unit. He alleged that certain practices at Merrill — like allowing brokers to form teams and the method of distributing accounts upon a broker’s departure — had a discriminatory impact on African-American brokers and trainees, even if the practices weren’t necessarily discriminatory on their face.

A lower-court judge, Robert Gettleman, denied class-action status for the case in 2010.  But on Friday February 24, 2011, Judge Posner, joined by Judges Diane Wood and David Hamilton, reversed Judge Gettleman and sent the case back down for further proceedings.  Judge Posner is a recognized and widely published scholar of the “Chicago School”, and a founder of the law and economics approach to judging.  Judge Posner’s opinions are widely viewed as business oriented.

Interestingly, the court relied in part on a landmark opinion handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year called Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes.  In Wal-Mart, the Court denied class certification for a group of female Wal-Mart workers who alleged discrimination against the retailer.

The Supreme Court based its ruling in part on a finding that Wal-Mart did not have a single allegedly discriminatory policy that could be challenged in a class action. Rather, held the court, the discrimination that allegedly affected thousands of women came at the hands of individual managers, who each had wide discretion over hiring and firing and promotions.

In contrast, wrote Judge Posner, the practices challenged at Merrill were, in fact, “practices of Merrill Lynch, rather than practices that local managers can choose or not at their whim.” Therefore, ruled Judge Posner, the case was distinguishable and allowed to move forward as a class action.

“We disagree with the ruling and we are still evaluating the decision but believe that the ruling does not fundamentally change our views that the allegations lack merit,” Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Bank of America (which purchased Merrill Lynch in 2009), said in an e-mail. “Diversity and inclusion are part of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch’s culture and core values.”

 

‘SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME’ EXPLORES ‘SHAMEFUL’ U.S. HISTORY – WATCH IT MONDAY FEB 13TH!

Rodney & Etter, LLC has a long history of supporting civil rights and promoting justice and equality for all throughout Louisiana, with the firm taking on a major pro bono case annually.  For us, civil rights, justice and equality are not just a job, it a passion!  Starting this month, we will be highlighting movies, television shows and documentaries, and books that Roy Rodney and John Etter recommend for their portrayal of the legal system, injustice, and the struggle for civil rights in this country. 

This month we are pleased to recommend the upcoming PBS special, “Slavery by Another Name,” by award-winning director, Sam Pollard and based on the book of the same name by Douglas A. Blackmon.   The book, subtitled The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II, was awarded the 2009 Pulizer Prize for general non-fiction.  The book also received the 2009 American Book Award, the 2009 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Book Prize, and the 2008 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award, among others.  New Orleanians know Sam Pollard as the editor of the Spike Lee documentary, “When the Levees Broke

The premiere of Slavery by Another Name is scheduled for Monday, February 13.  In New Orleans, the documentary will air on WYES, Channel 12 beginning at 8:00 pm.  We encourage everyone to watch the documentary and let us know what you think.  Comment here or email us at intouch@RodneyandEtter.com.  We’ll collect the comments and post them back on the blog.

The following summary of the show is courtesy of our good friend, Regina Waynes Joseph:

“Slavery By Another Name,” a new PBS documentary, challenges the widely accepted notion: that slavery in America came to a halt with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film shows that while chattel slavery ended in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pushed into forced labor that exposed them to brutality, abuse and death.
 
As narrator Laurence Fishburne says introducing the film, African Americans “were no longer slaves, but not yet free.” Men were arrested, forced to work without pay, and were mistreated by cruel masters. The system of forced labor took place in the North and South, and lasted into the 20th century.
 
“It could have been different and should have been different,” said Douglas A. Blackmon during a session during the PBS portion of the first day of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. Blaming the government, Blackmon called the continuation of slavery “an astonishing failure of modern society.”  He added, “It’s a story of how America failed,” showing how whites had lost faith that blacks could be fully integrated into the mainstream.
 
Descendants of slave owners and slaves participated in the film. Susan Tuggle Barone, who spoke during the session, told of learning how her great-grandfather John Williams killed 11 black laborers who were held illegally on his farm. It was a long-buried secret in her family.
 
“It was devastating for my family to find out about this,” she said. “I’m glad my grandmother wasn’t alive to find out about this. But it was important to learn the truth.”
Sharon Malone, who is married to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, spoke of how her uncle was a victim of Alabama’s forced labor system. She said her family spoke little about his time growing up in the South.
 
She said she has no anger or bitterness about that part of her past. “In fact, I’m more grateful to my parents than I otherwise would have been,” she said. “They did not pass on that bitterness to their children. To us, they were unburdened by their past, and that gave us faith and hope. It’s something that needs to be known.”

Rodney & Etter, LLC is a legal powerhouse recognized by its peers across the US as highly knowledgeable and sought-after counsel or co-counsel with an extensive variety of courtroom experiences and an outstanding record of successful litigation and settlements for its clients.  Roy Rodney was awarded the Louisiana State Bar Association Pro Bono Award for his pro bono work on civil rights and injustice issues.

THIS DAY IN RODNEY AND ETTER HISTORY

from:  Roy J. Rodney, Jr.

We continue to be amazed that we have been providing legal service to the New Orleans community for almost thirty years.  Recent delving into the firm’s archives have made us realize that they contain a virtual treasure trove of history and information on the practice of law in this city and the role of members of our firm in that legacy.   We hope you won’t mind if we occasionally dust off some old articles to share with our clients, friends and supporters through the new digital media.

Fifteen years ago members of our firm were awarded the Young Leadership Council’s Diversity Award:

“The Young Leadership Council (YLC) Diversity Awards Advisory board has selected the law firm … to receive a … Diversity Award.  The award, which is part of the Leadership in a Diverse City Project, is presented to those businesses the board deems exceptional in its efforts to embrace diversity concepts within its workforce and its management practices.  [The firm] will be recognized under a special designation created to honor businesses 10 years old or less. …

“The firm… is privileged to be chosen as this year’s Diversity Award recipient.  ‘We are very proud that the YLC has recognized our commitment to racial, ethnic and gender diversity.  Our philosophy has been to reflect the multicultural composition of our clients here in South Louisiana, manage our diversity and harness the energy and imagination created by our unique cultural perspectives,’ states Roy Rodney, managing director of the firm. 

 “The Diversity Award was designed by [the late] John Scott, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship…”

 Today, Rodney & Etter continues to demonstrate the same commitment to diversity, energy, imagination and to the region’s cultural history that led to this prestigious award.

 

Obama Administration asks Cherokee Nation to Recognize and Re-admit descendants of African-America Slaves

There is a civil rights and racial justice controversy going on in the largest Indian nation in the United States.  In August, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court affirmed the results of a 2007 Constitutional Amendment that required that to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, one must have at least one direct line descendent from a member of the “Dawes List”, a listing created by the United States Government in the late 1800s of all Cherokee Indians.   At one level, this would not seem to be a particularly note-worthy event, except that by affirming this amendment, the Cherokee Nation disenfranchised at least 2,800 Freedmen — descendants of black slaves that were taken with the Cherokees when they were relocated from the South to Oklahoma in the 1830s.  The U.S. Government is threatening to freeze services to the tribe if they do not reverse their decision.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters have reported that the Freedmen are challenging this decision because they will be unable to access tribal medical benefit, health care, food stipends and other benefits the Freedmen descendants receive as members of the Cherokee Nation.  Discussions in the New York Times’ Room for Debate provide much-needed perspectives from Cherokees, Freedmen, and other historians, and tribal rights experts.  From these editorials, the complexity of the discussion becomes clear.  The issue is not about health care or food stipends.  Nor is it, as the Cherokee Nation claims, about sovereignty of the Native American nation within our nation.  It is about “blood quantum,” who is a Native American and the long shadow of slavery.

Unfortunately,  this is about racism. As Joanne Barker, associate professor of American Indian studies at San Francisco State University said at the conclusion her editorial on this topic, “the sovereignty that tribal people claim is only as good as how they treat each other in its name.”  This is not an abstract issue for many Louisianans of African descent who also claim Cherokee and other Native American heritage.  Many may not know whether they are considered members of the Cherokee Nation or other Native American tribes, but this decision, if upheld, will results in their losing substantial rights and benefits.  Anyone whose forbearers have claimed connections to the Cherokees or other Native American groups need to pay attention.  If you are interested in this issue, please contact us at intouch @ rodneyandetter . com

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