The Trial Lawyers College supports the millions of citizens who are protesting the most recent murder of another African-American person, George Floyd, by a police state that too often demonstrates racial violence resulting in serious injury or death. Protests and marches have previously occurred when police have abused their power, to the injury, incarceration and death of people of color; but the present protests are far more extensive and lasting longer. Previous protests resulted in very little change. Now, finally, the time is ripe for much needed change.
There must be a reform of the nation’s police, which the American power structure has allowed to avoid accountability. There must be a reform of the criminal justice system that presently permits racially biased prosecutors to prosecute the innocent or disproportionately seek longer prison terms or worse, the death penalty for people of color. So, too, there must be reform that stops prosecutors from functionally determining case outcomes from the charges they choose to file, the bond they choose to demand, and when and how to offer pleas to indigent defendants who are disproportionately people of color. There must be reform of and accountability of a judiciary in which judges may exercise racial bias in setting bond, in sentencing, in revoking probation, and in jury selection decisions.
Legislators can and should drastically change the law that too often provides qualified immunity from civil liability to racially motivated police who abuse and even kill “the innocent, the forgotten and the damned.” Legislators can and should change the law that gives absolute immunity to prosecutors even in spite of intentional, racially-motivated prosecutorial conduct. Racially-motivated judges can be replaced. But none of this will happen if the present protests end without action – not “forming a committee to review,” but meaningful action.
The reform we need must start with ourselves. We can protest, we can contact our elected representatives, and we can make our individual voices heard – and we must. We can help each other in service to marginalized and abused clients who cry out for justice – and we must. We can support public defenders who serve indigent clients, as well as private counsel who serve indigent clients pro bono – and we must. We can confront and challenge our own racism within ourselves – and we must.
On the organizational level, Trial Lawyers College will intensify its efforts to improve, in every TLC class, representation of race, age, creed, religion, national origin, physical abilities, gender and sexual orientation. Increased representation in each class will lead to increased representation among teaching staff, the F Warriors and the Board of Directors. We strive to train a greater representation of lawyers, for a greater representation of people who need justice. We will do everything we can now do to promote change and we encourage all lawyers and judges to do likewise. We can do better!
The protesters, and those in whose memory and honor they are protesting, deserve no less. With one voice, Trial Lawyers College shouts from the mountains that Black Lives Matter!
John Sloan, President
Milton Grimes, Vice-President
Maren Chaloupka, Secretary
J.R. Clary Jr., Treasurer
Dana Cole, Board Member
Anne Valentine, Board Member