By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — A California-based technology company is giving away 1,000 online classes to help prospective civil rights lawyers study for scholastic and professional exams, TestMax announced recently.
At least two applicants live in Tennessee: Kevin Clark, a security officer patrolling Nashville General Hospital at Meharry; and Ms. Diamond Cavazos, soon-to-be Mrs. Pierre St. Hillaire. Her fiancé works in Memphis. He persuaded her to move from San Diego.
Cavazos and Clark have wanted to be lawyers since they were young. The oldest of five children, Cavazos’s mother frequently told her, “‘If you want to argue with somebody, become an attorney, but you’re not going to argue with me.’” She’s serious about it now: “I’m looking into the law school at the University of Memphis.” Clark’s
been active in state and local levels of the NAACP and the Democratic Party. He was a bus captain for the Reverse Freedom Ride from south to north with Ben Chavis. Clark wants to be a civil rights lawyer.
More Black and minority lawyers and judges are needed to provide equal justice in America’s courts, according to Mehran Ebadolahi, founder and CEO of TestMax Inc. in Santa Monica. While at UCLA’s campus, he and a friend were cited to court on false attempted vehicle theft charges. The cases were rescheduled to a few days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ebadolahi’s parents immigrated from Iran and he faced racism and discrimination in court. Now a Harvard-educated attorney and entrepreneur, he wants more civil rights lawyers with passion and guts.
Ebadolahi and the test prep company are awarding 1,000 online courses valued at $3 million to help minority students score well on admission tests, help them get through law school, pass the bar, and successfully enter the legal field.
Applicants may start at TestMaxPrep.com’s page where company leaders state they are “Introducing Our ‘Justice In Action Program.’”
“Bias in our legal system can perpetuate immense inequality,” Ebadolahi said. “A fundamental tenant of our
democracy is that justice is blind. It doesn’t matter if you’re the president or homeless.”
Recalling his September 2001 experience, Ebadolahi said, “My parents could get the $3,000 to get me out.” Others didn’t make bond. He remembers having been in, and then going back to court shortly after America was attacked by Mid-Eastern terrorists.
“I have no doubt,” Ebadolahi said, “my name played a big part in the prosecutors not dropping the charges.” Ultimately, he conceded to a misdemeanor trespass charge but soon came to feel what others do when completing an application form for work or school.
Last week, he and TestMax approved 10 applications for Justice in Action scholarships. More than 500 were filed.
“We’re not trying to help the next generation of corporate attorneys,” he said.
Clark and Cavazos found TestMax while searching the web for help while studying for the Law School Admission Test, the Bar Exam and other steps toward becoming an attorney.
After military service, Clark enrolled at Fisk University, graduated in 2007, and then worked to get Karl Dean elected mayor. That was a distraction, but his military experience helped him get hotel security management work. Now, he works for G4S, a security contractor. Clark grew up in East Nashville, including Lane Gardens. He played Pop Warner football, was on the Wallace Stars youth baseball team, and the Bellevue Steelers football team.
Cavazos is taking an online law course with Yale University and helps her sister, Exquisite Allen, raise four children in Memphis. She’s a graduate of Poway High School about 30 miles north of San Diego.
Both see TestMax as a step toward their career goals.