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Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers
Supreme Court Law Day Ceremony
May 1, 2008

Hon. Chase T. Rogers

Thank you for being here today to honor a group of attorneys who currently act as the leadership of the minority bar associations in Connecticut, which include the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association, the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association. These individuals have all been working over the past year with the Judicial Branch to achieve our collective goal of increasing diversity within the Branch, both as employees and as judges.

It appears self-evident how important diversity is within an organization such as our state court system. The Judicial Branch interacts with hundreds of thousands of people each year who come from all walks and experiences in life. Without a diverse Bench and workforce, we cannot even begin to address, or worse, understand, the dynamics of the situations which have brought people into the court system. The individuals who are receiving this award today have worked extremely hard with the Judicial Branch over the past year to close this gap.

One of the first areas we identified was the need to increase diversity on the Bench. It became clear, after reviewing the 2007 Annual Report of the Judicial Selection Commission that minority attorneys simply are not applying for positions as judges. The report indicates that of the 35 candidates interviewed for appointment as a Superior Court judge in 2007, 33 voluntarily identified themselves as “white/Caucasian,” only one identified herself as “African-American” and one identified himself as “Chinese.”

To encourage more minority attorneys to apply to the Judicial Selection Commission, the individuals here today in their positions as the leadership of the minority bar associations, organized an evening forum for minority attorneys interested in the process of becoming Superior Court judges. The speakers at the forum included the chairperson of the Judicial Selection Commission, the Governor’s Legal Counsel, experienced attorneys, and judges who explained the process from the application through nomination by the Governor. The feedback received from over 55 attorneys who attended the forum was extremely positive. We hope and expect that these types of events will encourage minority attorneys to seek judgeships.

In addition, we discussed the need to improve the number of applicants from minority communities who are interested in careers as court employees. To accomplish this goal, the Law Day Award recipients organized a career fair at the University of Connecticut School of Law in February. One of the goals of the career fair was to encourage minority attorneys to seek jobs within the court system. Chief Public Defender Susan Storey, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, and Judicial Branch employees with responsibility for hiring Supreme, Appellate and Superior Court law clerks, temporary assistant clerks and other entry level attorney positions all participated.

Many of the law students who attended the career fair reported that the event was helpful as they begin to choose their career path. Events such as this one are important as we work to make the courts as diverse as possible and to ensure that the people who work in our court system reflect the people we serve.

The work of these attorneys has also benefited the public at large. For example, upon the suggestion of this group, about 50 community organizations received information from the Judicial Branch about the many publications that are available in both English and Spanish which explain the various court processes. A number of these organizations have requested specific publications for their clients.

In addition, at the request of the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Connecticut Courts booklet has been translated into Mandarin and is now available at Court Service Centers and Public Information Desks around the state. This publication is one step towards meeting the needs of a population that is growing in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association also identified the need to continue to provide more information in Spanish. As a result, portions of the Judicial Branch website that are heavily utilized have been translated into Spanish. During our discussions, we considered other strategies, such as increasing the number of interpreters, improving signage and removing language barriers to telephone and electronic access. We will continue to explore these potential solutions to access with our award recipients over the next year.

Finally, the award recipients today have candidly discussed with us some of the general perceptions and experiences of the minority community when they utilize our courts. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Taking this a step further, it stands to reason that the perception of injustice anywhere is an equal threat. We know that perceptions of injustice are out there, and with the thoughtful input and involvement of all of our award recipients we are digging deeper, both to find their cause and to work on ways to help franchise the disenfranchised. I am confident that by working with this talented and dedicated group of attorneys, we will achieve this goal. In closing, I would like to congratulate each of you on this well-deserved recognition of your important work over this last year.


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