Bringing the “equity” charade to RI’s judiciary is extremely dangerous.
Of course Katie Mulvaney would fail to include a single expression of contrary concern about a survey finding (surprise, surprise) that many identity groups involved with the Rhode Island judiciary believe they have suffered from discrimination there in her Providence Journal article. Apart from journalists’ general agreement with the progressive talking points, who in Rhode Island’s political class would dare to go on the record questioning an equity survey by the RI Bar Association?
A survey by the Rhode Island Bar Association Diversity & Inclusion Task Force found that a majority of respondents encountered discrimination — including instances of racism, sexism, homophobia and prejudice based on a person’s disability — in the profession and in the Rhode Island court system. Female attorneys, lawyers of color, LGBT lawyers and those with disabilities reported experiencing barriers to their professional career, such as disparate treatment, lower pay and fewer opportunities to advance.
Even more terrifying than the notion that people are scared to speak up with a contrary view is the possibility that nobody sees how incredibly dangerous this movement is to our justice system and, therefore, our entire state. Consider the proposed solutions:
The task force has recommended that the bar association and the state Supreme Court impose mandatory annual continuing legal education courses focusing on diversity and inclusion and implicit bias. It emphasized, too, the importance of bar members in underrepresented groups participating in leadership, committees and governance.
Judges and the courts should commit to equitable hiring practices, annual implicit bias and anti-racism training, and emphasize outreach from judges to a diverse pool of lawyers, the task force said.
The activists want more than simply training judges to see things in terms of identity groups. With the introduction of “anti-racism training,” they will pressure judges to rule in ways that are unjust in a particular case in order to make up for supposed injustices on a broader social scale. This will destroy Rhode Island’s legal system.
“Equity” doesn’t mean everybody gets the same, fair treatment; it means their treatment adjusts for earlier or external considerations to ensure proportional representation and outcomes. In terms of law and order, it means that the goal of the courts would not be to ensure that the parties are treated as equals and win or lose based on the facts of the case; rather, it would be to ensure that convictions and rulings don’t disproportionately go against “underrepresented groups,” regardless of whether they are overrepresented among offenders. In terms of lawyers, it will mean that those from these groups will receive special treatment.
Even worse, the risks this movement creates are not justified by the survey, although Mulvaney’s details appear carefully selected and the full results do not appear to be available on the Bar Association’s website. Only 6% (around 300 of 5,000) of Bar members even responded to the survey, and among them, 47% claim to have “experienced discrimination.” The bias of these results is baked in: members of “underrepresented groups” were obviously much more likely to take the survey, especially those with a complaint on their minds.
Of those who identified with an “underrepresented minority group” (however many that may have been), 58% do not feel as if they have ever “experienced social, opportunity or advancement barriers,” and almost half of those (42%) who do feel that way don’t think it was their identity group status that was the cause. Never mind, by the way, that we have no way of knowing how long ago these incidents may have been. If they skew back to the 70s and 80s, the results are much less meaningful.
Nobody should doubt that Rhode Island’s legal system is shot through with cliquish insiders who enjoy being part of the club and who play by selective rules, but that affects anybody who isn’t in the club. Undermining the objectivity of the courts while infusing them with radical, racist ideas — based on the results of an incredibly skewed survey, not a rigorous examination — should be met with outrage. Is there nobody of courage and clarity left in Rhode Island’s governing elite?
Featured image by Eskay Lim on Unsplash.