CCJ/COSCA resolution supports racial equality and justice for all

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CCJ COSCA Virtual Conference

CCJ/COSCA resolution supports racial equality and justice for all

The nation’s top state court justices and administrators, acknowledging widespread institutional racism, this week pledged to make the courts fairer for all, including people of color. The resolution from the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), which was endorsed today at their annual meeting, contends that “too many persons, especially persons of color, lack confidence in the fairness of our courts and our criminal justice system.”

State courts for many years have examined racial disparity. As recently as December, the Connecticut Supreme Court announced it would appoint a task force to study implicit racial bias in jury selection. One month later, the California Supreme Court made a similar announcement.

But the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in May in Minneapolis prompted state court leaders in at least 24 states to vow to make the judicial system fairer to all. In some states, action plans are already in place. For example, New Jersey announced a plan to implement nine reforms in a year, and New York announced an independent review of its policies, practices, and initiatives.

The CCJ/COSCA resolution acknowledges efforts to:

  • Identify and address unconscious bias, and facilitate the uncomfortable conversations that arise from the recognition of such bias;
  • Diminish the extent to which pretrial release depends on a defendant's ability to pay;
  • Develop evidence-based practices in sentencing and throughout the criminal justice process;
  • Establish proportionate sanctions for the failure to pay fines and fees to those who willfully fail to pay, and prevent sanctions from being imposed on those who are financially unable to pay;
  • Collect, maintain, and report court data regarding race and ethnicity that allows courts to identify and remedy racial disparities;
  • Develop career pathways to improve the racial and ethnic diversity of the bench, law clerks, and court staff, as well as the legal community; and
  • Engage in conversations with communities of color, so that, in the words of (Equal Justice Initiative Founder) Bryan Stevenson, our courts “get proximate” to the challenges faced by such communities.

According to the resolution, “(CCJ and COSCA) agree to continue and intensify our efforts to combat racial prejudice within the justice system, both explicit and implicit, and to recommit ourselves to examine what systemic change is needed to make equality under the law an enduring reality for all, so that the justice we provide not only is fair to all but also is recognized by all to be fair.”

NCSC accepting entries for courthouse design retrospective

The National Center for State Courts is accepting entries through August 31, 2020 for the next volume of its Retrospective of Courthouse Design publication series. The Retrospective chronicles the major courthouse trends of the past decade and illustrates the architectural innovations and solutions achieved to address the evolving needs of judicial work environments. Courts, architects, and architectural firms are invited to submit examples of their courthouse projects undertaken between 2010 and 2020 to be considered for publication. Please email inquiries to retrospective2020@ncsc.org.