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New Book Exposes Flaws in Justice System


Book Review

Black judges criticize America's most popular anti-crime policies as racist and proven failures during candid interviews about the nation's system in the new book "Black Judges on


Mandatory sentencing is very popular with politicians who posture themselves as "tough on crime," but these harsh imprisonment polices have "not been effective in cutting crime," states Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Veronica S. McBeth. McBeth is one of three female jurists included in the 14 judges interviewed in this book that has been described by one reviewer as a "seminal work."

The incarceration of huge numbers of young black males nationwide, resulting largely from mandatory sentencing laws, is termed "a quiet kind of genocide" by Joseph Brown of Memphis, a trial court judge who trims his black judicial robes in African kente cloth.

"Black Judges on Justice" is the first book to present the views of leading African-American jurists serving on the nation's federal and state benches. The black jurists interviewed include:

Famed federal jurist A. Leon Higginbotham, who authored the famous letter attacking the anti-black attitudes of now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Bruce Wright, the feisty New York City jurist who has won acclaim for his decades long fight against racism in the judiciary, and Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American female federal judge.

The jurists forthrightly discuss the inequities of race and class which too often stack the deck of the justice system against blacks. For example, the subtle but pervasive prejudices of judges and prosecutors, which impact on decisions like who gets probation and who goes to prison, are examined by Theodore A. McKee, a Philadelphia judge who now sits on the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The jurists in "Black Judges" provide rare insights into the judicial decision making process, exposing how this life-impacting process is often arbitrary and wholly unrelated to laws. Further, the jurists present intriguing autobiographical sketches of their accomplishments, often in the face of tremendous adversity. The jurists were interviewed by Philadelphia journalist (and STRONG advocate for Mumia!) Linn Washington, Jr., a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship program. "Black Judges on Justice," published by the New Press, exposes many myths. It is widely believed in this society that Black leadership is soft on crime. But Washington, D.C. judge Reggie B. Walton served as President Bush's Assistant Drug Czar and Senior White House Advisor on Crime. Walton says one of his major frustrations working for the Bush Administration was his inability to convince administration officials of the fact that fighting crime is ineffective without attacking social causes of crime.

Abigail R. Rogers, a family court judge in South Carolina and the first black female jurist in that state, reveals how she has been victimized by racism and sexism from whites and blacks alike.

The author of "Black Judges on Justice," Linn Washington, is an award-winning investigative reporter and editorial writer. A graduate of Temple University who holds a masters degree from the Yale Law School, Washington has spent much of his 20-plus years in journalism specializing in issues involving race and matters related to the justice system. Washington is a former assistant to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and former executive editor of "The Philadelphia Tribune."

"Black Judges on Justice" is receiving favorable reviews. "The Quarterly Black Review" describes the book as an "illuminating work ... that should be required reading for anyone interested in the relationship between blacks and the law." The magazine "Booklist" describes the book as "well-written and insightful" while "Publisher's Weekly" termed the book "thoughtful." "Black Judges on Justice" is on the recommended reading lists of "Essence" and "Emerge" magazines.

Derrick Bell, the distinguished law professor and expert on racism in American law, has stated, "Beleaguered racial-equality forces will applaud Linn Washington's searingly candid interviews with these courageous men and women who strive both to alleviate unfairness in their courtrooms and to urge reforms that, if adopted, would move courts toward justice and away from the cynicism, racism, and moral bankruptcy in which they are now mired."

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

From: The Jamal Journal, Issue #5, Autumn, 1995

Published by the International Concerned Family and Friends of

Mumia Abu-Jamal, P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143


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