The New York State Bar Association wants to mandate racial bias training for judges, jurors and court staff, according to a Wednesday report.
The report, created by the association’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity, provides recommendations for law schools, private employers and the court system to advance diversity initiatives in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action in higher education. Noting that the ruling does not directly pertain to the judiciary, the report argues that it should not “impinge” on the judiciary’s efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), including mandating racial bias training.
“Regular mandatory bias training for judges is a crucial step towards alleviating racial injustice within the court system. Several experts have posited that such training should be administered by experts in the field to facilitate relevant and nuanced discussions and incorporate practical guidance,” the report states. “The training must acknowledge that issues of racial and cultural bias are intersectional, and that discrimination based on race often overlaps with class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and beyond.”
The task force recommends initiatives to “attract diverse candidates to the bench” to help “retain diverse judges.”
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— New York State Bar Association (@NYSBA) September 20, 2023
“To increase awareness of judicial opportunities, courts should engage in focused outreach to communities with higher percentages of underrepresented groups,” the report also states. “These efforts can be strengthened by using inclusionary language for job postings … Similarly, posting opportunities in LGBTQ+ centers, HBCUs, bar associations, fraternal organizations, faith communities, local colleges, career fairs and social media may also aid in attracting diverse applicants.”
Courts should also maintain “robust diversity data” on not only judges, but also law clerks and judiciary staff, the report recommends.
The New York State Unified Court System adopted a guide on “inclusive language and pronouns” in 2022 that instructs judges to avoid gender-specific terms like “ladies and gentleman of the jury,” and instead use words like “folks” or “jurors.”
The New York State Bar Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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