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Minority Concerns Committee’s 20th Anniversary March 18

For further information contact
Linda Brown Holt
Office of Public Affairs
(609) 292-9580
For release: March 17, 2003

Judiciary to Observe 20 Years of Dedication to Fairness, Equity and Access for New Jersey’s Diverse Population

Trenton, NJ…Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz, the Associate Justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court and members of the Minority Concerns Committee will play key roles March 18 in the celebration of 20 years in the pursuit of fairness, equity and justice in New Jersey’s courts. Festivities, speeches and workshops will be held from noon until 5 p.m. at the Marriott at Lafayette Yard in Trenton.

The New Jersey Supreme Court was the first state court in the nation to commission a task force to examine racial and ethnic fairness issues in a state court system. Today, 31 state courts and the District of Columbia have similar panels. New Jersey continues to play a leadership role nationally in the pursuit of racial and ethnic fairness in our nation’s courts.

As Chief Justice Poritz has stated, “The Judiciary must stand on the bedrock principle of our system of government, that all people are equal under the law—or it will stand for nothing at all….We must reach out to the community and ask people to participate with us in the very difficult and very significant task of ensuring that the courts are open and fair to everyone who comes up the courthouse steps.”

“The Judiciary has been persistent in its efforts to involve all of the stakeholders in the process of improving court services and programs,” said Yolande P. Marlow, Supreme Court Committee staff. “We are very appreciative of this important work.”

The anniversary celebration is expected to attract public sector leadership from throughout the State. The program will feature a keynote address by Chief Justice Poritz followed with the presentation of service awards by Judge Richard J. Williams, Administrative Director of the Courts, to Associate Justice James H. Coleman Jr. and Judge Theodore Z. Davis, General Equity Presiding Judge of the Camden Vicinage.

Other remarks will be presented by Camden Vicinage Family Judge Ronald J. Freeman and Theodore J. Fetter, Deputy Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Rev. Darrell L. Armstrong, Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church, Trenton, will present inspirational comments. There will be musical selections by students from the Camden County Creative Arts High School.

Justice Coleman and Judge Davis, both retiring this year, played key roles in developing and implementing the minority concerns program in the State’s Judiciary. Their efforts laid the groundwork for critical changes in how the courts hire and train employees; how the court works to provide equal access to court services for all citizens; and how the courts reach out to citizens to seek their advice and to involve them in system-wide reforms and implementation of new court programs and enhancements to existing services and programs.

In June 1992, when the Supreme Court Task Force on Minority Concerns published its final report, the percentage of minority employees in the Judiciary’s state and county paid workforce was 23.5 percent. In July 1994, Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed legislation authorizing the unification of the state and county-paid workforces. In January 1995 this legislation became effective and the proportion of minorities in the Judiciary workforce was 27.6 percent. The Judiciary’s data consistently show an increasingly diverse workforce. From 1997 to 2003, the percentage of minorities in the Judiciary workforce rose from 28.7 percent to 35.1 percent. These data exclude judges and law clerks.

One significant innovation was the creation of the minority law clerk recruitment program. When then Judge Coleman and Judge Davis began their work in this area, there were only four minority law clerks. A new program focusing on expanding the applicant law clerk pool was soon launched. New Jersey’s Law Clerk Recruitment Program is now a national model. The representation of minority law clerks in the Judiciary exceeded the minority graduation rate of 22.4 percent at the three New Jersey law schools in 2002. A total of 115 of the 479 law clerks hired for the present court year were racial and ethnic minorities.

In addition to judges and Judiciary staff attending the celebration, program registrants include personnel from the Department of Corrections, Department of the Treasury, federal agencies, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Criminal Justice Division, Juvenile Justice Commission, Middlesex County Child Services, minority bar associations, Legal Services of New Jersey and County Youth Services Commissions.

During the afternoon, participants will have the opportunity to take workshops on issues of fairness, equity and justice such as:

  • Court/Community Collaborations: Model Vicinage Programs;
  • Assuring a More Diverse Jury Panel and the Impact of the Use of Peremptory Challenges on Minorities and Other Cognizable Groups;
  • Minorities in the Juvenile Justice System in Bergen County: Findings and Implications for Program Planning and Implementation;
  • A Status Report on the Participation of Minorities in the New Jersey Judicial System: Past, Present and Future;
  • Delivering Quality Services to Indigent and Self-Represented Litigants;
  • Impact of Drug Courts on Minorities in the Criminal Courts;
  • Violence in Teen Dating and Street Talk;
  • Diversity Education in the Judiciary for Judges, Staff and the Public: A Historical Perspective and a Vision for the 21st Century.

(Note to news media: Media coverage of this event is welcome. Please reserve in advance by contacting the Judiciary Office of Public Affairs at [609] 292-9580.)

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