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2015 Fall Issue [PDF]
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Despite our discomfort, it is more important than ever that the judicial community continually self-educate and self-examine about all forms of bias.
Courts rely on expert witnesses and assume that they provide impartial evidence. Yet cognitive science shows that even the most dedicated and committed experts are influenced, without even realizing it, by factors unrelated to the data.
I hope to offer some practical ideas for ways to recognize our own implicit biases and expose them so that we can all improve our decision making, rather than allow our unconscious to undermine our hard work.
Graphic videos of racial atrocities involving the police have drawn enraged reactions from around the world. Is our system of justice really that discriminatory, that bad? The issue is one of whether the justice system is basically fair—and also one of perceptions.
Anne & Emmett is a one-act play that imagines a conversation between two young teenagers: Jewish Anne Frank, a victim of Nazi genocide, and African American Emmett Till, murdered in the 1950's Jim Crow South. I saw the play at a judges’ conference and later interviewed the author.
Our brains are efficient organs. This focus on efficiency drives our brains to create cognitive shortcuts, and these shortcuts are what we refer to as biases (also known as implicit biases, unconscious biases, and latent biases). Most are helpful, but many may speed up brain activity at the cost of critical thought and analysis.
I met with Judge Cordell just days before she retired— again. She had just completed a five-year term as the independent police auditor for the City of San Jose. Judge Cordell was the first female African-American judge in Northern California, and her career reflects a lifelong commitment to justice in all forms.
While our Code of Judicial Conduct cannot possibly prohibit the manifestation of implicit bias, each judge can live his or her own version of Model Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.3 (B) in careful awareness and contemplation of the assumptions we all carry with us.