Memphis over the years has been at the center of riveting, controversial and far-reaching court cases.
Many of them have either wound up in the history books or simply re-balanced the scales of justice for ordinary people.
Attendees of a daylong symposium Friday at the University of Memphis’ Downtown Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law will get an earful about that rich history. It’s resonated throughout the legal profession via cases like the Overton Park expressway flap and the local case involving the Memphis Police Department that helped solidify the fleeing felon rule.
The former was the case decided in the 1970s by the U.S. Supreme Court, fought by a dogged Memphis attorney on behalf of a band of citizen activists and whose outcome no doubt made the little guy everywhere take heart. The Supreme Court ruling prevented an extension of Interstate 40 from running through Overton Park.
The latter Supreme Court decision took the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a suspect by a Memphis police officer in the 1970s and ruled that law enforcement officers can only use deadly force against unarmed suspects in certain conditions.
“This is an event we put on once a year around a different topic,” said Stephanie Bada, symposium editor of the University of Memphis Law Review. “This year, it’s ‘Memphis and the Law.’”
The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Wade Auditorium of the university’s law school on Front Street.
The lineup for Friday’s symposium includes lions of the profession like former Tennessee Attorney General Mike Cody and Charlie Newman, the Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC attorney who represented the activists in the Overton Park case.
Newman will discuss the Overton Park case. He’ll be preceded by Cody, who will discuss the courtroom activity and injunction hearing related to the fateful march that brought Martin Luther King Jr. back to Memphis in 1968.
Newman worked with Cody on the King-related matters.
“We had been hired to represent Martin Luther King, who was then preparing to have another march in the city,” Newman told The Daily News in a 2007 interview. “There
had been an injunction enjoining the march, and there was going to be a hearing the next day in federal court.
“There were some other lawyers who were already involved, and we met with (Dr. King) in his room that day. The next day we had the hearing, and at the end of the day the judge indicated he was going to lift the injunction. By the time we got back to the office we heard the sirens. Martin Luther King had been shot.”
Of particular relevance today, with both city and county school systems on track to soon combine and form a single system, U of M law professor Daniel Kiel will discuss “A Memphis Dilemma: The Story of Schooling in Memphis and Shelby County from Brown to Today.”
U of M counsel Sheri Lipman will discuss the 2007-2008 basketball season that broke the hearts of Tiger fans and then was erased from the record books, thanks to allegations of cheating on the SAT by former U of M and now Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
The custodians of Elvis Presley’s estate and image handle a powerfully valuable asset in the form of the Elvis brand. Glankler Brown PLLC chief manager William Bradley will discuss “Elvis Presley and Intellectual Property Law.”
Also on hand for the U of M event will be a judge – David Kennedy, chief bankruptcy judge for West Tennessee – and A C Wharton Jr., the city’s mayor who as a former public defender also is one of the city’s most recognizable attorneys. Wharton will give opening remarks, and Kennedy will discuss bankruptcy law.
“With this event, we wanted to show what an impact our city has made through the law,” Bada said.
For more information about the symposium