Recent times have humbled us with too many examples of our legal system processes not being more just, fair, or decent. The count feels like it’s growing. We need to start asking and addressing: What are we afraid of?
I do not pretend to know the answer. But it often helps to start by recognizing what you don’t know.
When there is dissent and opposition to a state supreme court creating a commission on diversity, equity, and inclusion (or to oppose following the federal recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday), it seems necessary to look for the fear.
When a trial attorney has breast cancer treatment complications and is denied their request to appear remotely (during an ongoing pandemic) but another attorney of a different gender and race is allowed to appear via Zoom, we need to understand how that came to be. And why.
When two individuals feel it necessary to publish an opinion piece in a large newspaper to sound the alarm that the state’s judicial tenure commission has been silent for nearly 14 months after they filed a complaint documenting what they believe are racist sentencing practices by a sitting judge, expecting to learn more and better understand “why” seems to be the only possible reaction.
When a court of appeals judge pens a repugnant concurrence solely aimed to ridicule a litigant’s personhood, we need to look for the fear that fuels such evil. [November 11, 2022 update: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth M. Welch—joined by Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack—had something to say about that in the Michigan Supreme Court’s related order. I call it “supreme decency”.]
Other examples come to mind.
We need to muster the courage to start asking “What are we afraid of?” and not be satisfied until we understand the answers.
Solutions are impossible without understanding and addressing the fear: What are we afraid of?