National Women's Political Caucus of Washington

Hillary Madsen On Racism In Our Legal System

Racism has deep roots and is embedded in our systems of government, including our legal system.

The demand for justice rising from our streets powerfully demonstrates a lack of confidence in our legal system wrought by systemic, institutional, and individual acts of racism. The courts play a role in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. Laws determine access to healthcare, education, safe housing, sustainable wages, nutritious food, and our personal freedom.

Judges are central to delivering justice. Judges must make decisions that require understanding multiple perspectives, and therefore must seek to understand people in their courtrooms. Judges should visit prisons, build relationships with communities and people impacted by our legal system, and ask how they can contribute to transformative change.

Talking about change makes some judges uncomfortable. No one wants to be accused of activism or making “political” rulings. Yet centuries of traditional judging have often served to reinforce the status quo, rather than deliver access to justice. We need judges willing to get uncomfortable and change courtroom culture and how information is shared with litigants. We must own up to the fact inequality pervades our civil and criminal systems.

My own legal practice reflects the stark reality of the King County Superior Court, where the juvenile justice and foster care systems do not treat all children equally. Children of color, children with disabilities, LGBTQ children, and children from other marginalized communities are targeted and especially vulnerable to abuse. I am proud to have represented clients in trial and appellate courts as well as the state legislature to highlight racial disproportionality among youth experiencing homelessness and serving time in detention, investigated abuse against immigrant detainees, and challenged unfair collateral consequences of legal system involvement.

My work has impact. I will take this impact to the bench.


-Hillary Madsen, Candidate for King County Superior Court, Position 13

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