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Courts Must Recognize and Correct Systemic Racism says Judicial Educator

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Courts must speak out “clearly” against systemic racism in our criminal justice system and make much needed corrections, says Judge Benes Aldana, president of the National Judicial College.


The National Judicial College has been in existence since 1963 and has educated thousands of judges from all 50 states and 150 different foreign countries. It is the premier national institution for continuing judicial education.


In July, the Judicial College, under the leadership of Judge Aldana issued a statement condemning racism. The statement said, in part:


“The National Judicial College condemns the recent killings of African-Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and many others. We call for all people of conscience to commit to the hard work of confronting bigotry at every turn and ending racial injustice.

Systemic racism has afflicted our justice system for far too long. Accountability has been lacking. The work to correct attitudes and prevent further discrimination, pain and death must begin now.

As judges and lawyers, we are called to keep the promise engraved in the West Pediment of the U.S. Supreme Court: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.”


The statement’s issuance prompted some push-back from judges but Judge Aldana says that courts must “recognize the truth” when justice fails.


The National Judicial College also conducted an unscientific poll showing that 65 percent of the judges polled found they believe systemic racism exists within the criminal justice apparatus, which includes police, courts, prosecutors, prisons and probation.


You may see more about the poll including some comments from judges here:


As a result, the National Judicial College is instituting new courses for judges to address systemic racism in the courts.


State courts across the country also are making statements condemning racial inequality in the criminal justice system. Here are a few: 


Judge Aldana joined the National Judicial College in 2017 after serving as Chief Trial Judge for the Coast Guard. He held various leadership posts and three judgeships in the Coast Guard from 1994.