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July 06, 2021 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

Spotlight on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Richard Nunes Charges Us All to “Do Something”

By Col. Linda Strite Murnane, Xenia, OH

We know him by his work:  past Chair of the National Conference of Specialized Court Judges, multi-year Co-Chair of the Judicial Outreach Network, and Past Chair of the Judicial Division’s Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary.

In his spare time, he practices law as a public defender, teaches at a local college to give students an opportunity to advance their goals and dreams. He participates in the efforts shared by his fellow Holy Cross Alumnae in tackling issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Judge Richard Nunes is originally from Kingston, Jamaica.  He grew up in East Orange, New Jersey.  He explained to his fellow alumnae he chose to become a lawyer because he wanted to help people.  When he became a judge in 2008 in Newark, New Jersey, he established the first drug treatment court in Newark.  Despite challenges, he wanted to stop the revolving door of drug offenders who really needed treatment more than they needed to pay fines, fees or spend time in jail.

Richard Nunes received his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross.  He and his fellow alumni recounted events which led them to march to end injustice while he was pursuing his undergraduate degree.  The passion and commitment to ensuring equity and inclusion, to address racism and to end the extra-judicial killing of persons of color still resonates with him and with those who graduated with him.

In April 2021, Richard led a discussion on changing the landscape in the judiciary with his College of the Holy Cross former classmates.  “Do something,” Richard said.  He opened the session by urging his colleagues and former classmates to pick something about which they have great passion, and stick to it.  He told them to keep coming back to check in on the focus group working on ensuring equity.

One specific outcome of the session was a commitment and exploration of organizing paid internships for current students at Holy Cross.  Several alumnae committed to working harder to reach out to Holy Cross students to serve as mentors, role models and to assist them in preparing for the job market upon graduation.

The effort to reach back and help others achieve as Richard has is not new to him, as his friends and colleagues in the National Conference of Specialized Court Judges know.  During his time as Chair of the Judicial Outreach Network and as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, Richard organized and ensured that outreach programs were presented in grade schools, high schools, to youth groups and on law school campuses.

Nunes received his J.D. from Seton Hall in 1995.  He took on the role of Acting Chief Judge in Newark, NJ in 2008 and was sworn in officially as the Chief Judge in Newark by then-Newark Mayor, Cory Booker.

In addition to his passion for ensuring equal access to justice, fairness and diversity in the judiciary, Richard’s classmates also know him for his great love of music.  As the pandemic forced people to stay at home to ensure their own safety and that of their families, Richard began holding evening music gatherings using a virtual platform with select friends and colleagues.  From the safety of their homes, Richard – a s usual – spread goodwill and brought light where there was only darkness.

As we see the scene replayed over and over of a young man of Color being shot, being killed as part of a routine traffic stop – Richard Nunes asks each of his classmates – and urges each one of us – to “Do Something.” 

“It doesn’t have to be something big – but it does have to be something you will commit to seeing through to the end,” Richard said to his classmates.  “Offer to read a book, tutor a student, help someone perfect their resume.  Find something that matters to you and turn it into an opportunity to level the landscape to ensure equal opportunity to those who find the system is biased against them and stands in the way of their success.”