Minority and Justice Commission
Washington State Minority and Justice Commission
Minutes of Commission Meeting
26th Floor Conference Room
2600 Century Square
Davis Wright Tremaine
August 15, 1997 at 1:30 PM
Justice Charles Z. Smith, Co-Chairmen, Presiding
Call To Order
Minutes Of Meetings
1995-1996 Commission Report
Resignation of Executive Director
Appointment to Work Force Diversity Sub-committee
1997-1999 Biennium Budget
Tenth Annual Meeting of National Consortium
Reports from Sub-committees
The meeting was called to order by Justice Charles Z. Smith with introduction of special guests:
(1) Stephen M. Rummage, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, our hosts, who welcomed our Commission to its facilities. The firm is providing a reception in its dining room at 3:00 PM.
(2) Technicians from TVW, an independent, nonprofit corporation (with 501 (c) (3) status) modeled after the national cable channel C-SPAN, were in attendance with equipment to cover our Commission meeting. Since April 10, 1995, TVW has transmitted live and unedited television coverage of state government proceedings and public policy events of statewide significance. TVW regularly covers all cases before the Washington State Supreme Court. It is believed ours is the only appellate court with regular full-time television coverage. Dennis L. Heck, President of the TVW Network, is a former Chief of State Governor Booth Gardner and Majority Leader, Washington State House of Representatives. Although he could not personally attend, Mr. Heck has indicated his interest in regularly covering our Minority and Justice Commission meetings when technicians and equipment are available.
Persons attending the meeting include: Judge Elaine Houghton, Judge Monica J. Benton, Larry M. Fehr, Ms. Mary Campbell McQueen, Jeffrey C. Sullivan, Judge Philip J. Thompson, Judge Karen B. Conoley, Ms. Madelyn Botta, Lonnie Davis, David J. Della and Ms. Lorraine Lee. Ms. Vicki J. Toyohara, executive director, and Ms. Deborah K. Mendoza-Huizar, administrative secretary, were also in attendance.
The minutes of the July 25, 1997 Executive Committee meeting were presented. A motion was made, seconded and carried to approve the minutes subject to any necessary editorial revisions.
The minutes of the May 16, 1997 Commission meeting were presented. A motion was made, seconded and carried to approve the minutes subject to any necessary editorial revisions.
Justice Smith announced that the 1995-1996 Commission report had been completed. It was sent to all elected public officials, all judges in the state, all court administrators in the state, county clerks, law schools and law libraries. Additionally, the report was mailed to members of the National Consortium of Task Forces and Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. The mailings in the state totaled 922. The mailings to the National Consortium totaled 140. The mailings to Chief Justices was 58. This meant 1,120 copies of the report were mailed.
Justice Smith commented the report is a good one, but he is concerned about the time it takes to compile our reports. He stated that although we "saved" money by publishing the 1995 and 1996 report as one, our mandate requires that we issue a report every year. He stated his hope that we will be able to issue a one-year report in 1997, but this requires preparation and support staff.
Justice Smith announced the resignation of Ms. Vicki J. Toyohara, effective September 8, 1997, when she will assume responsibilities as an administrative law judge in the Washington Office of Administrative Hearings. Ms. Toyohara has agreed to accept appointment to the Technical Support Group and will be assigned to the Education Sub-committee.
Justice Smith announced that Judge Deborah D. Fleck, King County Superior Court, will assume responsibility as Vice-Chairperson of the Work Force Diversity Sub-committee, now chaired by Judge Elaine Houghton, Washington Court of Appeals. Judge Fleck replaces Ms. Sandra Francher Garcia, who has relocated to California.
Justice Smith called attention to the 1997-1999 biennium budget prepared for the Commission by the Office of the Administrator for the Courts, Fiscal. The budget was previously approved at our May 16, 1997 Commission meeting.
Justice Smith reminded the Commission that the National Consortium of Task Forces and Commissions on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts, at its Ninth Annual Meeting in Las Vegas on May 8, 9 and 10, 1997, enthusiastically accepted the invitation from the Washington State Supreme Court and our Commission to hold the Tenth Annual / Anniversary Meeting of the Consortium in Seattle, Washington on May 7, 8 and 9, 1998. The Seattle meeting will be held at the Westin Hotel. With the assistance of the National Center for State Courts, we have already signed a contract with the hotel.
An active planning committee for the 1998 Consortium Meeting has been established by our Commission, chaired by Ms. Myrna I. Contreras and Richard F. McDermott, Jr. Among the things we are trying to work out is financing. Mr. McDermott and José E. Gaitán, recent National President of the Hispanic National Bar and currently vice chairperson of the American Bar Association Commission on Opportunities for Minorities, are working together to obtain funds. In the past we have had nine meetings-most recently in Louisiana, Georgia and Nevada. The host commission has been responsible for costs. State and local bar associations have contributed something-at least to partially underwrite the opening reception. This suggests our planning committee should at an early date communicate with our Washington State ethnic bar associations and the Washington State Bar Association to ask for their participation.
Justice Smith stated that the 1998 meeting is the tenth anniversary of the Consortium. It was established by New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Washington State in 1988. The executive directors of each of the four groups are currently available. Judge Lorraine Weber of Michigan, Dr. Yolande P. Marlow of New Jersey, Ms. Desirée B. Leigh of Washington, and Ms. Edna Wells Handy of New York are reasonably available. Judge Harold Hood of Michigan, Judge Theodore Z. Davis of New Jersey, and Justice Smith are available. Ambassador Franklin H. Williams of New York is deceased.
Justice Smith stated that because the Consortium meetings have in the past been held on Mothers Day weekend, there has been some "compliant" about the date. He has in letters stated we are billing the 1998 meeting as "bring your mother to the Consortium meeting or your spouse or best friend or children." To make that more meaningful, we insist that Seattle, is truly a family town. In consequence of that, we are developing activities of a family nature. Among them will be a boating experience. Justice Johnson has a boat that will accommodate 17 persons and Chief Justice Barbara Durham has a boat that will accommodate 30. A boating capacity of 47 persons would be adequate to provide a boating experience for interested persons.
Justice Smith expects attendance at the Seattle meeting to be between 100 and 130. This also brings up the issue of insurance and life jackets. Mr. McDermott is handling the details. We are also looking into tickets to Mariners game and tickets to a play, possibly the ACT Theatre. We hope to have enough money to make these activities available to our attendees at no cost. The goal is to have actives geared towards families and children. The planning committee is expected to work full speed ahead on this project.
For the National Consortium meeting, we are planning the reception for Thursday night, May 7, a plenary session beginning on Friday morning, May 8, until 2:00 PM, and then reserve from 2:00 PM for the rest of the day as free time to engage in family activities. We will return for a plenary session on Saturday morning, May 9, until the end of the day, which could be 4:00 to 5:00 PM, leaving attendees free for the rest of the evening. Persons wishing to stay over Sunday may do so. We hope to have hosted luncheon events and a hosted dinner event. The reception will also be a hosted event so persons attending the Consortium meeting will have only the expense of their transportation and room costs.
The Westin Hotel has a $150.00 room rate. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has published a list of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" hotels. They have listed the Westin Hotel as "unacceptable." Their reason is in part due to the fact the NAACP sent out a survey to hotel chains and the Westin Hotel, instead of completing the survey, wrote a letter which the organization found unacceptable. Justice Smith said he is confident the Seattle Westin Hotel measures up to his personal requirements for inclusiveness in its employment practices. He will request that the planning committee chairperson and Ms. Brenda A. Williams of the National Center for State Courts discuss this issue with the Westin Hotel to make certain that reality will not create embarrassment to us as a national group.
Outreach Sub-committee (formerly Bar Liaison Sub-committee)
The report of the Outreach Sub-committee was made by its chairperson, Ms. Myrna I. Contreras. She reported change of the name from "Bar Liaison" to "Outreach."
The principal task of the Outreach Sub-committee will be publication of the second issue of the newsletter, Equal Justice, expected to be completed by November 15, 1997. The newsletter will consist of (a) summary of work of the various sub-committees; (b) status or results of any studies under way; (c) continuing legal education information of interest; (d) and articles concerning Washington courts and other courts dealing with issues of racial and ethnic bias.
In the absence of Judge Ronald E. Cox, chairperson of the Education Sub-committee, the report of the sub-committee was made by Ms. Vicki J. Toyohara.
The Commission has been invited by the Education Department of the Administrator for the Courts to participate in the 1998 Judicial College in January. This will be the third time we have participated in the annual Judicial College which provides intensive education classes for new Washington State judges. The Education sub-committee plans to continue presentation of its two basic cultural diversity education programs and to find new audiences. There are two different curricula, Level One, our regional education program and Level Two, "The Courts in an Inclusive Society," our judicial program, which was first presented at the 1997 Spring Conference.
The report of the Research Sub-committee was made by its chairperson, Larry M. Fehr. He defined the purpose of that sub-committee; to conduct objective and empirical analyses of critical issues concerning potential racial and ethnic bias in Washington courts.
The current emphasis of the Research Sub-committee is to disseminate information concerning previous research from the Commission to the broader community. Mr. Fehr is working with the Gonzaga Law Review in preparing an article summarizing two previous research reports: (1) Racial/Ethnic Disparities and Exceptional Sentences in Washington (November 1993); and (2) prosecutorial decision-making (Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Prosecution of Felony Cases in King County (November 1995). The article will be part of a special issue of the Gonzaga Law Review focusing on racial and ethnic bias in a broader sense. Published copies of the article will be made available to Commission members.
The Research Sub-committee presently has under way Research Study Number 4, "A Study on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Superior Court Bail and Pre-trial Detention Practices in Washington." We have contracted with Dr. George S. Bridges, Ph. D., in the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington, who also directs the University's Society and Justice Program. He is a well-respected criminologist in our state and country. He is working with three senior research assistants and seven research assistants to complete this report. The project is in two phases: The first phase provides a statewide context for bail issues and pre-trial court services, as well as a focus on King County in terms of an empirical analysis of cases. In reviewing the counties initially considered for the study, it was determined that King County had the best automated information system to facilitate this first phase. But it is a complex system which required merging of three different data sets: one from the Prosecuting Attorney's office, one from the courts, and one from the jail. Not surprisingly, there are some discrepancies between those data sets, and a manual sorting and review of each of those files is required to correct those discrepancies. At least 800 of the files are of particular importance and are being manually reviewed by the research team. The team has also conducted interviews with a variety of agencies and individuals. We hope to present and release the published study at our October 24, 1997 Commission meeting.
As we have done in the past, we intend to have a news conference immediately prior to our scheduled October 24 meeting. At the conference our principal researchers will speak, as well as agency directors who participated, particularly in King County.
Phase Two of the study will focus on other Washington counties. In particular, we are interested in Yakima County and at least two other counties outside Puget Sound. Future activities in Phase Two will focus on reviewing the data and information systems available in the other counties, determining the costs involved, conducting the research and preparing and presenting the data.
Work Force Diversity Sub-committee
The chairperson of the Work Force Diversity Sub-committee, Judge Elaine Houghton reported for the sub-committee. She formally presented the Work Force Diversity Resource Directory (May 1997), which is the second edition of a previous directory. It follows upon the work by previous chairperson, Judge Karen B. Conoley and Judge LeRoy McCullough, who published the 1993 first edition.
The 1993 edition was so popular that the supply was exhausted. For the second edition we printed 3,000 copies for distribution. The sub-committee made an effort to make the document more "user-friendly" by including spiral binding, highlighting geographic locations, and including computer icons to identify media, churches, community organizations, and job listing services. The directory prominently uses the Equal Justice logo which has been adopted by the Commission.
Justice Smith indicated that the Executive Committee would be meeting at a "box lunch" session with Chief Judge Donald P. O'Connell, Circuit Court of Cook County (Illinois) at Two Union Square at noon on Monday, September 15, 1997. Judge O'Connell has established the Circuit Court of Cook County on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. He will be in Seattle attending another meeting and is interested in meeting with representatives of our Commission to exchange ideas concerning the appropriate role of commissions and task forces with equity and fairness in the courts. Other members of the Commission are invited to join us.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 PM to allow Commission members to join our hosts, Davis Wright Tremaine, in the firm's dining room for a reception.