STATE HOUSE – Senators Harold M. Metts, Ana B. Quezada and Sandra Cano are calling upon Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to ensure that minority candidates are selected as judges for the numerous judicial appointments that are currently open.
The three senators have sent the governor a letter asking that she call on the Judicial Nominating Commission to include at least one minority candidate among the three to five finalists on every list it forwards to her for judicial appointments, and to appoint a minimum of three minority judges to make up for minority judges who have recently died or retired.
The legislators also pledged to work within the General Assembly to enact changes to the judicial selection process to bring more diversity to the judicial branch in Rhode Island.
With the 2015 retirement of Superior Court Justice Edward C. Clifton and the more recent deaths of District Court Judge William C. Clifton and Superior Court Judge Walter R. Stone, Rhode Island’s judiciary lost most of its minority members. The three senators are asking that every effort be made to ensure that at least three of the upcoming appointments be granted to minority candidates to prevent the judiciary from losing what little ground it has gained toward becoming more diverse.
“Structural racism can be defined as a system that promotes inequality. Whether intended or not, the lack of African-American and Latino judges in the judiciary is troubling, even before the deaths and retirement referenced above,” they wrote to the governor. “We will continue working within the General Assembly on legislation to reform this deeply flawed system, and now ask you to do your part by demanding a more diverse list of candidates.”
They wrote that members of the Assembly’s Black and Latino Caucus have been contacted by several highly qualified minorities who are interested in becoming judges.
They also noted that minorities are disproportionately brought before the courts for criminal matters, and suffer extremely disproportionately high levels of resulting incarceration.
“While these inequities are affected by a wide variety of factors inside and outside the judicial and law enforcement sphere, the lack of minority representation on the bench doubtlessly is among those factors,” they wrote. “It’s time that we fix this broken system, as the lack of diversity in the judiciary is a travesty.”
Senators Metts, Quezada and Cano requested a meeting with the governor on the matter, and said that “unless measures are taken to promote true equality and diversity” they will be unable to support the current process and recommendations from the Judicial Nominating Commission during the Advice and Consent process in the Senate.