It had been about two weeks since George Floyd’s death ignited worldwide protests when my mother asked me how long I thought these protests would last. I reminded her that Black America has suffered unfair treatment for more than 400 years, so if it took weeks of protests – or longer – to create actual change, then so be it.
As a judge and a woman of color, I urge my fellow judges to initiate change. We need to allow remote court hearings to provide better access to justice for those with little to no means of transportation, for those risking losing their jobs if they take another day off for court, for single parents who can’t afford a babysitter. We need to create pre-trial services to give judges alternatives to jail.
I urge those who hold the budget strings to recognize that these approaches also save taxpayer dollars. By reducing instances where people fail to appear for their court dates, we reduce the number of warrants for arrest and jail costs. Through pre-trial services, the court can keep the community safe by providing supervision while people are able to connect with needed treatment instead of sitting in jail. If we all do the math, I think we will see that the investment saves dollars and lives.
As our Washington Supreme Court recently stated: “Too often in the legal profession, we feel bound by tradition and the way things have always been.” To my fellow judges I say you cannot initiate change if you do not try. Our Supreme Court has reminded us that “[t]he legal community must recognize that we all bear responsibility for this ongoing injustice, and that we are capable of taking steps to address it, if only we have the courage and the will.”
- Judge Linda W.Y. Coburn, Candidate for Washington State Court of Appeals
Learn more at www.judgecoburn.com