chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
November 01, 2023 Feature

Extending Justice: Strategies to Increase Inclusion and Reduce Bias Book Review

Erica Levine Powers

This is a remarkable book that everyone should read. Edited by Hon. Bernice B. Donald of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Professor Sarah E. Redfield, a professor of law at the University of New Hampshire and a member of the Maine Bar, Extending Justice: Strategies to Increase Inclusion and Reduce Bias (Carolina Academic Press, 2023; ISBN 978-1-5310-2469-7) expands on their 2017 book, Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias, that was designed as a benchbook for judges to make them aware of implicit bias in their lives, their professional actions, and the judicial system. “Extending Justice: Strategies to Increase Inclusion and Reduce Bias is written for a wider audience. In addition to law, legal processes, and studies of the courts, it is rich in history, sociology, clinical psychology, and technology, including a chapter on algorithmic bias when AI is used in the courtroom. It is eminently readable. It appeals to our common humanity and the very human aspect of finding it difficult to face the implicit bias in each of us.

Some of the chapters consist of interviews or roundtables. “Diverse Voices: A Critical Conversation about Bias,” which begins the book, is an interview of Judge Donald and Professor Redfield by Professor Justin Levinson, a law professor and leader in the field of studying implicit bias. For those of us privileged to know Judge Donald, the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for Western Tennessee, the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the first African American female judge in Tennessee, the relevance of her life story and specific experiences of implicit bias are materials she draws on as she and Professor Redfield conduct their training in recognizing implicit bias.

There are chapters by judges: Hon. Mark W. Bennett (Ret.), “Implicit/Unconscious Bias in the Courtroom”; Hon. Reba Ann Page and Hon. Benes Z. Aldana, “Judicial Education on Implicit Bias: Instilling a Lifelong Pursuit of Fairness”; Tyler N. Livingston et al., “The Past, Present, and Future Trajectory of Implicit Bias Education for the Judiciary”; and Hon. Kevin S. Burke, “Confronting the Hurricane.” There is a thoughtful roundtable discussion among prosecutors and a chapter, “The Empathetic Prosecutor: Reducing Bias When Working with Victims, Survivors. and Witnesses.” Throughout the book, there are consistent recommendations for data-driven implicit bias training. The second chapter is “The Evolving Science on Implicit Bias: An Update for the Court Community.” Immediately following Judge Bennett’s chapter is “Algorithmic Bias in the Courtroom,” noting that human beings write algorithms.

In “Pain, Power, Courage: An Interview on the Role of Judges in Addressing Bias,” Professor Redfield interviews Judge Donald and Hon. Steven C. Gonzalez, Chief Justice, Washington State Supreme Court, which in 2020 vacated a 1916 decision and exonerated a Yakima man convicted for fishing. Two chapters specifically address the Native experience: In “Roundtable Conversation: Reflections on Implicit Bias, Silence and Invisibility,” Professor Redfield interviews Arizona State University Law Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee (Pointe-au-Chien) and Mary Smith (Cherokee), president of the American Bar Association, who is the first Native American woman in this role. Jack Fiander, a Yakima Nation member representing tribes and tribal members in Washington State, writes, “Should Justice Really Be Blind? Can We Really Stay Silent?” Racial and cultural bias issues are not limited to African Americans. Walter Goncalves, Jr. writes “Narrative, Culture, and Individuation: A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Race-Conscious Approach to Reduce Implicit Bias for Latinxs.”

Some of the chapter topics go to the heart of daily life: “An Essay: Understanding the Threat of Right-Wing Extremism”; “Leveraging and Interrupting Implicit Biases Concerning Women Trial Lawyers”; “Confronting Implicit Bias in the Nonprofit Sector: A Personal Perspective”; “Gender and Evaluation”; “ ‘Ducks Pick Ducks’: The Military’s Institutionalized Unconscious Bias Challenge”; “Addressing Underrepresentation in the Legal Profession”; “From Rosie the Riveter to Health Equity: The Kaiser Permanente EID Journey”; “Children and the Law: Bias and the Juvenile Justice System”; “Implicit Bias and People with Mental Disabilities: Taking Stock of the Criminal Justice System”; “Educational Disparity, the Great Unequalizer: How Racial and Learning Disability Biases Thwart Equity in Education”; “The Logic of Poverty: Rethinking Approaches to Socioeconomic Bias in Judicial Decision-Making”; “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”; and “Law Enforcement and Implicit Bias.”

Congratulations to all the authors and editors for an outstanding and much-needed contribution.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

Erica Levine Powers

Albany, New York

Erica Levine Powers is an attorney and mediator located in Albany, New York.