November 01, 2015 Introduction

Understanding Implicit Bias: An Attainable Goal

By Judge Mary-Margaret Anderson

I’m so tired of implicit bias! I confess that as I write this introduction, that feeling is the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps it is understandable, as I have been immersed in the topic for months now. But perhaps it is true for all of us. In August 2014, when The Judges’ Journal committed to this themed issue, it was, of course, an important topic of great concern to all who care about the integrity of the justice system. But that was before examples of possible bias, both explicit and implicit, seemed to arise in the news almost daily, bringing bias-related issues to the forefront of the national discussion. That was “before Ferguson,” before so many other incidents and their aftermaths, when angry and hurt citizens took to the streets to protest.

Despite our discomfort and fatigue, it is more important than ever that the judicial community continually self-educate and self-examine about all forms of bias. Our goal with this issue was to advance that cause from a variety of directions. To that end, the articles come from a variety of disciplines, including neuroscience, academia, the arts, and the judiciary. Our Waymaker is retired Judge LaDoris Cordell, who, since her interview, has been appointed to chair a commission convened to examine the Santa Clara County, California, Sheriff’s Department after the death of an inmate. Her career thus continues to inspire. And finally, we have a piece by one of our own, lawyer and author Keith Roberts, a former Judges’ Journal co-editor. Mr. Roberts tells the story of Perceptions of Justice, a Judicial Division project that sought community input and identified problems. He decries the delay in implementing change and calls us all to action.

I recently heard a lovely Native American saying: “A good hearing eases the heart.” Studies at the police and court levels continue to show that outcomes are not as important to people as their perception of fair treatment. Our biases can get in the way of providing fair treatment—of providing those good hearings that can ease the hearts of the citizens we serve.

I hope you are challenged by, learn from, and even enjoy this issue. The Judges’ Journal Editorial Board is eager to hear your comments about the articles here and what you would like to see in your magazine in the future. Please write to us c/o Managing Editor Lisa Comforty, lisa.comforty@americanbar.org.