The 901: Rhodes College reacts to Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation

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The 901: Rhodes College reacts to Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation
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Good Tuesday morning from Memphis! Here are the day’s top stories: After hurrying the process, the U.S. Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, a graduate of Memphis’ Rhodes College, to fill a vacant seat on the nation’s highest court; […]


Good Tuesday morning from Memphis! Here are the day's top stories: After hurrying the process, the U.S. Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, a graduate of Memphis' Rhodes College, to fill a vacant seat on the nation's highest court; a former Memphis Police Department homicide detective who charged a woman in connection with a homicide case and then admitted sleeping with her just made his first court appearance; and Collierville's police and fire departments just got the OK from the town's board to use drones.Yours truly is juggling a few other assignments, so we'll be moving apace...

After a speed-round of hearings and a narrow 52-48 vote, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate yesterday, giving Memphis' Rhodes College its second graduate on the nation's highest court in the history of the school.

The school's first Supreme Court justice was Memphian Abe Fortas, who graduated from the school in 1930, was confirmed in 1965, and resigned in 1969 under the cloud of an ethics scandal after an important — if brief — stint on the court.

As a refresher, President Donald Trump's nomination of Barrett in September sparked a tug-o'-war at Rhodes. On one side of the issue, 1,879 alumni signed a letter trying to pull the school toward opposing her nomination on the grounds that the conservative Barrett didn't exemplify the school's values of "Truth, Loyalty, and Service." But ACB's supporters at the school wrote their own letter praising her qualifications. That letter garnered 550 signatures, as our Laura Testino reported a couple of weeks ago.

Rhodes President Marjorie Hass opted for a more neutral approach, which she continued pursuing in the wake of Barrett's confirmation. In what would have been expected in bygone times but qualifies as "bold" by today's standards, the school put out a traditional release with all of the traditional platitudes yesterday, including a lukewarm statement from Hass that's the equivalent of the awkward hug in "Step Brothers" (2008):

“At Rhodes College, we set our graduates on a path to professional success at the highest levels. Being confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett is part of that legacy."

In the release, Dr. Timothy Huebner, associate provost and the Irma O. Sternberg Professor of History, gave the modern and historical context to the confirmation:

“Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation puts Rhodes College in the front ranks when it comes to having undergraduate alumni on the U.S. Supreme Court. During the last 60 years, since the Kennedy administration, Rhodes has had two of its alumni end up on the highest court in the land. Only Stanford (with four), Harvard, and Princeton (both with three) have had more undergraduate alumni serve as justices during this time.”

Unsurprisingly, the reaction from Rhodes alumni was more mixed:

Former detective pleads 'not guilty'

Former Memphis Police Department homicide detective Eric Kelly yesterday entered a not guilty plea to three counts of official misconduct, our Daniel Connolly reports.

You might remember that Kelly — who was indicted in September — admitted to having a sexual relationship with a woman who was charged with being an accessory after the fact to a 2017 homicide, as Daniel reported in January. He let her stay at his home, took her on a work trip, gave her money, bought her marijuana, let her pose with his guns, and then lied about the relationship to internal investigators, per MPD records. During the investigation, Kelly quit, writing "It's been a blast" in his retirement memo.

Kelly is now collecting a $3,600-per-month pension, Daniel also reported in January.

Yesterday, Kelly and his attorney didn't tip their hand about their defense strategy during or after the hearing, and the prosecutor also declined to comment.

Collierville OKs drones for police, fire

The Collierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen yesterday unanimously approved the creation of a seven-person team to fly drones for the town's police and fire departments.

That's according to our Dima Amro, who quotes Collierville Police Department Chief Dale Lane about what the "Public Safety Unmanned Aircraft System" would do:

Lane said the drones could be used in multiple situations including mass casualty events, missing persons, disaster response and recovery, and post-incident crime scene preservation and documentation.

"The team would be available for not only critical incidents of emergency nature but also inspections of critical infrastructure," the police chief said. "This is keeping us from pushing our people into more dangerous situations when they don't have to."

Lane said the team — which would be made up of one lieutenant, three police officers and three firefighters — would enhance law enforcement officers' performance and safety in dangerous situations.

Interestingly — and perhaps more controversially for the broader population — the town proposes to use $32,000 of its federal coronavirus aid to pay for the drone program.

Check out Dima's story for more details.

+ Speaking of Collierville: The town's school system will move further away from a hybrid model of in-person and online schooling this January, our Laura Testino reports.

What else is happening in the 901

The Fadeout: Graber Gryass' latest

Don't take this as an endorsement of puffing the magic dragon or anything — but let's fade out this morning with a mellow tune from Memphis band Graber Gryass...

Like The Fadeout? Check out The 901's Spotify playlist. Want to submit a recommendation of your own? Reach me by email, address below.

Columnist Ryan Poe writes The 901, a running commentary on all things Memphis. Reach him at [email protected] and on Twitter @ryanpoe.

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