NCSC convening strengthens network of court DEI professionals

NCSC convening strengthens network of court DEI professionals

May 8, 2024 -- State courts are working to better understand the diverse communities they serve.DEI convening 2024

The Second National Convening of Court Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Professionals brought together court DEI officers, judges, administrators, human resource managers, and others to discuss strategies to overcome bias, improve fairness, and strengthen equal access to justice.

"Courts nationwide recognize the need to respect the diverse communities they serve," said Edwin Bell, NCSC’s Director of Racial Justice, Equity, and Inclusion. "True inclusion goes beyond access. It's about fostering an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and has their voices heard."

Learning and sharing

Supported by the State Justice Institute and the National Center for State Courts as part of the national Blueprint for Racial Justice initiative, the convening focused on how courts can improve their understanding of the unique experiences and varied backgrounds of people in their communities to implement effective change.

During the day-and-a-half event, attendees discussed strategies to overcome bias, recounted workplace successes and challenges, and shared best practices to support programs that ensure equal treatment and fair outcomes.

“The DEI convening continues to be an invaluable resource for all state court employees charged with carrying out diversity, equity, and inclusion work,” remarked Tony Walters, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from the New York State Unified Court System. “The presentation on collecting and using race and ethnicity data was so timely and underscored the continued necessity of DEI in our court systems.”

One area of success highlighted by several states was the impact of employee education and training programs to foster greater cultural awareness and promote empathy and understanding toward others.

Public trust

In her opening address, Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals and President of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), emphasized the importance of fairness and equality as the foundation for building public trust in the court system.

“Fairness and justice … that’s what we’re all about,” she said.

To build public trust, attendees and presenters discussed the importance of data collection and analysis, community outreach, and relationship building.

Access to justice

The connection between diversity, equity, and inclusion and access to justice was a recurring theme throughout the convening. One discussion group focused on specific initiatives, exploring how language interpretation services, multilingual self-help resources, and translation chatbots can foster a more inclusive environment and promote procedural fairness.

Blueprint for Racial Justice

Through the Blueprint for Racial Justice, courts from across the country have worked to examine the systemic changes needed to make equal justice under the law a reality for all. NCSC and Blueprint working groups created a Racial Justice Resource Center with toolkits, webinars, and self-assessment tools to help courts evaluate their racial justice practices.

Bell is optimistic about the progress made but recognizes that there’s still work to do.

"We're definitely building the plane while flying," emphasized Bell. "But I'm confident that the changes we need to see in our court system will come from this network of court professionals."

Visit to learn more.