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How to Deal with Racial Bias in Court

From the disproportionate incarceration of African-American men to the implicit bias of lawyers, jurors, and judges, Jeff Adachi, Public Defender for the City and County of San Francisco, explains how racial disparities are rampant in our legal system. And then he explains how lawyers can deal with it in court.

Part of our job as attorneys is to be able to recognize and address racial justice issues when they arise. As Justice Sotamayor wrote:

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.

Jeff Adachi says to get the facts and be ready for a sometimes difficult road to addressing them in court:

Here are some things Jeff Adachi suggests that lawyers can do to make things fairer in our legal system:

  • Recognize your own biases. It’s important to recognize our own implicit bias and then educate ourselves about the issues and the research that has been done on racial disparities.
  • Learn about your client’s background. When your client comes from a background that’s different from yours or the jurors, immerse yourself in your client’s culture so you can help the jury to understand your client and the context for the decisions that he or she made.
  • Seek out racial bias during jury selection. You have the right to question jurors on race during voir dire, and you can move for more time to ask these questions. Start with introducing the issue of racial bias to the jurors and then try to get them to talk about it. Make sure to link questions about race to your case.

Learn about each of these suggestions and much more from Jeff Adachi in CEB’s FREE program Racial Justice Litigation, including 1 hour MCLE credit for Elimination of Bias.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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