Archive for June, 2018

Implicit Bias from The National Judicial College

posted by Judge_Burke @ 16:39 PM
June 25, 2018

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Should judges be warning jurors about unconscious bias? Our poll says few are

Unconscious bias has been in the headlines since Starbucks closed all its stores nationwide for an afternoon late last month to conduct racial-bias education for employees.

The training came in response to a racial incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. A pair of African-American men were waiting for a business meeting and hadn’t purchased anything, which is a common scenario with patrons of all kinds at the coffee shops. The store’s manager asked them to leave and then called the police when they did not comply.

Our June Question of the Month asked judges if they do anything to alert jurors to unconscious or implicit bias before they render a verdict. Of the 338 judges who voted, 71 percent said they do not alert jurors to potential implicit bias.

As the preface to the poll question noted, some states, including California and Washington, require that juries be informed about implicit bias. And one judge shared the instructions that he himself issues to jurors.

Of the 125 respondents who posted comments (mostly anonymous), several said they don’t consider it necessary to talk about unconscious bias because they feel counsel often address it adequately in voir dire. Others seemed unsure how to bring up the topic with jurors.

Iowa District Court Judge Jeff Neary (Sioux City) said he starts by talking about overt bias before turning to the implicit or unconscious form.

“[I ask] folks from this area to raise their hands if they consider themselves Iowa Hawkeyes fans, Iowa State Cyclones fans or Nebraska Cornhusker fans. And then I use that show of hands—and the typical joking that takes place—to talk about how we feel about those who might not like a team we like or point out how we take sides in such contests and may generally feel or react to others who do not see things as we do.”

Several judges said that they would like to discuss unconscious bias but haven’t figured out how to do so. They worry about calling attention to the fact that a witness or a defendant may be subject to bias. They don’t want to plant a seed of bias in jurors’ minds

“I address [bias] during jury orientation [but] not as thoroughly as I would like to,” wrote one judge, who self-identified as an African American from a southern state. “I don’t get the sense that jurors are as open to me addressing this with them.”

Another judge cited a study that, according to the judge, found that “alerting” jurors to their unconscious or implicit biases can exacerbate them.

The overwhelming weight of research shows the opposite, according to Kimberly Papillon, a judicial professor who has taught about neuroscience in decision-making for the NJC for 10 years. She said numerous studies show brain reactions change and fairness increases when people are alerted to bias.

“This is particularly true when people make decisions that will be scrutinized in public, like jury verdicts,” she said.

 

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Watch What We Do Not What We Say?

posted by Judge_Burke @ 19:58 PM
June 15, 2018

There are a lot of judges who believe that the Second Amendment confers an individual  right to bear arms. There are judges like Justice Thomas who believe that a strict scrutiny test applies to any gun restrictions. And then there are a whole lot of judges who simply do not see courthouses as the right places for people to be carrying loaded firearms. So we put up metal detectors and keep the guns out. Seems simple enough. Well, perhaps not in Mississippi:

Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that a lower court had unconstitutionally banned residents with enhanced concealed-carry licenses from bringing their weapons into courthouses.

A 2011 amendment allowed “enhanced concealed-carry licensees the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm in the courthouses of this state, save for courtrooms, which the Legislature left within the province of judges.” However, local judges “issued a court order prohibiting enhanced concealed carry licensees from possessing a firearm in and around courthouse buildings.”

The Mississippi Supreme Court found that “The Mississippi Constitution vests only the Legislature with the authority to regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons. The orders at issue usurp that power.” While the court acknowledged that the judges’ fear for their safety was “well-founded,” the majority concluded that the judges’ “personal fears and opinions do not trump, and cannot negate, constitutional guarantees.”

Two justices dissented, finding the ban constitutional, and two justices dissented in part, finding that a more narrow order could be constitutional.

 

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The California Judicial Election Results

posted by Judge_Burke @ 14:30 PM
June 8, 2018

Judge Aaron Persky, whose 15-year judicial career will be publicly defined by how he handled an alcohol-fueled sexual assault case, was removed from the bench by Santa Clara County .

With 75 percent of precincts reporting, nearly 60 percent of voters supported Persky’s recall. He will be replaced by Assistant District Attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson, who was outpacing San Jose civil litigator Angela Storey, 70 percent to 30 percent.

“Tonight’s results mirror what we heard while we were out talking to voters,” Michele Dauber, who led the recall campaign, said in an email. “We are thankful for our supporters and every person who donated their time.”

The election results close the book on a divisive campaign that raised difficult questions about how the judicial system handles violence against women, how the public views judicial decision-making and independence and how judges under political fire should respond. But the vote could continue to resonate, said retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Leonard Edwards.

“This will put a chill in any judge when considering a sentence in the criminal courts,” Edwards said, “and I suppose that’s what the recall supporters wanted.”

Persky became the first judge recalled in California since 1932, when three Los Angeles County judges were ousted after the local bar association accused of them of graft.

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Fines & Fees Justice Center

posted by Judge_Burke @ 14:30 PM
June 7, 2018

Among the most committed reformers of the system of justice is former California Judge Lisa Foster. After she left the bench, Judge Foster served as the Director of the Office for Access to Justice at the United States Department of Justice. She is now a driving force of an important initiative we all ought to be concerned about. 

From Fines & Fees Justice Center (FFJC):

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Fines & Fees Justice Center (FFJC) – a national center for advocacy, information and collaboration.

FFJC is committed to ending the unjust and harmful imposition and enforcement of fines and fees in the justice system.  Our mission is to create a justice system that treats individually fairly, ensures public safety and community prosperity, and is funded fully and equitably. 

To accomplish these goals, FFJC is involved in state-based advocacy, piloting reform strategies to bring about comprehensive change.  In New York and Florida, FFJC is working with community partners and justice system stakeholders to pursue court, legislative, and policy changes, creating demonstration sites for holistic reform. In addition, FFJC consults with other jurisdictions, individuals and organizations interested in pursuing reform, directing them to resources, partners and practices that can strengthen their work. And when we find particularly promising models for reform, we seek out jurisdictions to pilot and evaluate them.

FFJC is also creating a user-friendly national clearinghouse for information, research and best practices. The Clearinghouse – still under construction – will collect and digest all of the research, pilot projects, litigation, legislation, court rule changes, and media related to fines and fees in the United States. Our goal is to translate this information into actionable guidance and tools that can be used by policy makers, advocates, courts and community organizations interested in reform. We want to include your work in our Clearinghouse. We will likely be contacting many of you in the weeks ahead, but, please, send us any reports, descriptions of pilot programs, court rule changes, or new legislation.

Many of you know us and know that we have been working on the issues surrounding fines and fees for many years – Lisa from the United States Department of Justice and Joanna from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  Together, we want to continue the work that we started – helping communities and justice system stakeholders achieve comprehensive and durable reform.

FFJC is a project of the New Venture Fund and is guided by an Advisory Board composed of nationally-recognized experts in their field.

We hope we can be of service to you as you consider fines and fees reform in your jurisdiction. FFJC has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Please contact jweiss@finesandfeesjusticecenter.org or lfoster@finesandfeesjusticecenter.org if we can be of any assistance. Additionally, you can follow FFJC on Twitter or visit our website for news and commentary around fines and fees.

Kindest regards,

Joanna Weiss and Lisa Foster

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There are many judges in the state court community who have a significant impact on their state. There are some who not only have an impact on their state, but also an impact nationwide.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson is one of those unique judges who had impact everywhere. She has been a mentor to judges, a role model to lawyers and judges, and an intellectual leader…and–for those who know her–she is a genuinely nice person.

Shirley Abrahamson won’t seek another term, thus setting up a race for Wisconsin’s high court seat.

Read the article here.

 

 

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