A Review of this Year in Judicial College Race Equity Work

In June, the pain caused by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—and the history of pain those deaths echoed—served as a call to action for many Americans and created a rising tide of engagement in race equity work from organizations across the country. The leaders of the School of Government and the Judicial College both announced that our organizations would rise to this occasion and prioritize race equity in our work moving forward. In addition to these internal commitments, the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges and the North Carolina Conference of District Court Judges both created committees to work on racial equity education. These committees invited members of the Judicial College team to partner with them to design and offer new and responsive programming to their membership.

The resulting education from the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges Equity Training Committee was a three-part training series open to all superior court judges as well as judges from the Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court. The first session, in August, featured the work and data expertise of Frank Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science. The second session, in September, was taught by Superior Court Judge Lou Trosch and Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court Elisa Chinn-Gary from Race Matters for Juvenile Justice. The final session of this series was offered in October and included a keynote from recently retired Superior Court Judge Carl Fox as well as facilitated group conversations designed by Judicial College faculty to delve into how equity issues arise and influence the work of the courts.

The North Carolina Conference of District Court Judges Equity Training Committee launched an ongoing series of trainings at their fall conference in October. The conference session included both data from Frank Baumgartner and the unveiling of the Reflections on Race and Justice video project, produced by the Judicial College, featured the voices of North Carolina judges. In November and December they offered the Race Matters for Juvenile Justice Implicit Bias training, also taught by North Carolina judges. The Equity Training Series will continue with a more interactive session built around facilitated conversations as well as exploration of how race affects work in the areas of juvenile justice and child welfare.

This month, the North Carolina Racial Equity Network, a part of the School’s public defense education program, held their annual convening. The topics for this year’s two-day training included Batson, the Fourth Amendment, and updates from the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. The training was attended by more than 80 public defense attorneys.

The Judicial College is also continuing to develop the Racial Equity Education Project, led by Professor John Rubin, to house the growing body of resources on this subject and to incubate future trainings. Look for future posts about the work of the Project.

At the Judicial College, we hope that our ongoing investment in race equity training for judicial officials will reflect our dedication to fairness in the justice system for all North Carolinians.

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