Perspectives

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Courts Are Perceived “Negatively” by People of Color in the USA

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Minnesota trial judge Kevin Burke is concerned about negative public perceptions of our courts – especially among people of color.

People too often believe they are treated unfairly and that judges are biased and make their decisions based upon “political views” and not the law. They also think judges are not understandable and that court processes are mysteries.

Judge Burke is on a mission to stem this negative tide. He has studied this issue, done surveys, written about it and is lecturing extensively to judicial groups across the country.

Judge Burke says to counteract the problem, judges need to do a better job with basic “procedural fairness” – making sure everyone feels they are being treated fairly and that people understand what a judge does in court…and why.

He says judges, not only need to explain what they do in understandable terms, but they need to listen better to people who want to tell their story.
Judge Burke believes that people don’t trust what they don’t understand and that it is a duty of every judge to make sure each party understands what the court is doing. If this happens, according to the judge, compliance with court orders increases, recidivism decreases, and public perception improves.

He is a proponent of giving parties before the court “voice and respectful treatment.” In that way, judges can foster a sense of neutrality and fairness.

If judges follow guidelines for procedural fairness, Judge Burke argues that perceptions of the judicial system will improve and become positive instead of negative.