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How racist is the judicial and criminal justice system?

Dec 12, 2008 How racist is the judicial and criminal justice system?

A fellow criminal defense lawyer has over the years been an active local leader in the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. Over the years, I have felt strong dissonance over remaining a Guild member, but have stayed for the reasons expressed here, here and here. My points of departure with the ACLU — which I have belonged to for over two decades — are fewer and less deep. Unfortunately, if I leave the Guild, no sufficient alternative lawyers group exists to fill the void, so I stay, for now.

I asked the above-mentioned lawyer what motivates his decision to be so active in the Guild rather than remaining satisfied with the ACLU, which stands up for the rights of all regardless of political viewpoint, whereas the Guild focuses over archingly on so-called progressives (which is one of my points of departure with the Guild). Without missing a beat, this rather calm-speaking lawyer declared either: "Because the system is racist" or "Because the court system is racist". Either way, racism still runs too rampant in society, including in the court system and criminal justice system, including racism running through judges, jurors, prosecutors, cops, trial witnesses, jailers, and court personnel. I suppose, then, that this lawyer, like I, would not stomach nor accept prosecuting.

What is your view about how racist are the judicial and criminal justice systems, and how can we eliminate it, or at least radically diminish it if the racism cannot be entirely excised?  Jon Katz.

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