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 Supreme Court of the United States: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.
The NJC’s mission is to “make the world a more just place by educating and inspiring its judiciary.” And we have a long history of confronting injustice through educational programming. One example is our long-running course When Justice Fails: Threats to the Independence of the Judiciary, which convened last December in the birthplace of the U.S. civil rights movement, Montgomery, Alabama. Earlier this year, When Justice Fails was held in Honolulu and included a public forum on the incarceration of Japanese Americans in Hawai`i and elsewhere following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When Justice Fails examines periods in history when justice was corrupted. The course asks today’s judges to put themselves in their predecessors’ shoes and think about what they might have done differently to keep the promise of equal justice.
In that spirit, we are taking a leadership role in engaging the judiciary on issues raised by the recent killings.
Early next month, in partnership with our affiliate the Appellate Judges Education Institute, we will launch a national conversation on racism in the justice system. The initiative will begin with virtual town halls that will include chief justices of state supreme courts, other members of the judiciary, leading lawyers, law professors and experts in the field.
Racial injustice has been perpetrated on this continent for at least 400 years, since the first slave ship landed in Virginia. Even before that, European explorers tortured and enslaved indigenous people before exterminating most of the populations with diseases they carried.
It is up to all of us to demand justice now. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We must do more than just say, “No more.” We must work for meaningful and enduring change.
We call on all members of the College community to join us in that commitment.
Hon. Benes Z. Aldana (Ret.)
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