Massachusetts Bill Seeks Increased Racial Diversity of State Judges

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A proposed bill in the Massachusetts legislature would lay the foundation for increasing the racial diversity of the Massachusetts judiciary.

The bill seeks to establish a fifteen-member legislative commission “to study the potential for legislative action to increase racial diversity among the judiciary in the Commonwealth.”

The bill requires that the commission itself have racial diversity. One member each would be from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and the Massachusetts House Asian Caucus, or a designee. 

Others include members from the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People New England Area Conference, and the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, or various designees. The current executive director of the ACLU is Carol Rose.

The governor would get eight selections, which would include women and minorities “in such proportion as these groups exist in the commonwealth’s population.”

In 2019, CBS interviewed Justice Shannon Frison, of the Superior Court in Massachusetts, in a story on the lack of diversity in Massachusetts courtrooms.

“I’m a poor, black woman from Chicago who’s also gay and a Marine,” Frison told CBS. “You can’t replicate that experience.”

“No matter where you are and what you’ve done. How serious your matter is, what your ethnicity or race is, you’re almost guaranteed to be in front of a white judge in Massachusetts on your criminal matter,” the judge said. She would go on to say that “You always need people of color when you’re talking about the effects that racism has had and still has.”

Frison lists herself as a “DEI expert” on her LinkedIn page. “DEI” stands for “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The judiciary bill was co-sponsored by state Representative Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield) and state Representative Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan). It was referred to the state legislature’s Committee on The Judiciary on February 16. A hearing has yet to be scheduled. 


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