Minority and Justice Commission
October 16, 1998
The Research Sub-committee of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission met at 9:30 a.m. in the law offices of Graham and Dunn, 1420 Fifth Avenue, Seattle. In attendance were Judge Kenneth H. Kato, Judge Monica J. Benton, Judge James D. Cayce and Ms. Donna V. McConnell-Adams.
Judge Kato referenced an impromptu meeting that occurred at the Judicial Conference at Ocean Shores, Washington involving members of the Evaluation and Implementation Sub-committee and the Research Sub-committee. Present were: Judge Deborah D. Fleck, Judge C.C. Bridgewater, Judge James M. Murphy, Judge Ronald E. Cox, Justice Charles Z. Smith and Judge Kato. During the meeting, participants discussed the background of the Evaluation and Implementation Sub-committee and how it is related to possible activities of the research sub-committee. A current issue concerns the Commission's report, A Study on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Superior Court Bail and Pre-trial Detention Practices in Washington. One of the factors that may have contributed to the results of the study was the 3.2 rule.
A Study on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Superior Court Bail and Pre-trial Detention Practices in Washington, George S. Bridges, Ph.D., October 1997.
- In the Washington Court Rules which specify criteria for detention and release, rule 3.2 of the criminal rules of the Superior Court of the State of Washington delineates factors that judges must use in determining the conditions of release in non-capital cases. The rule specifies that the accused be released on his/her own recognizance unless the court determines that such recognizance will not reasonably assure the accused's appearance, when required, or if there is shown a likely danger that the accused will commit a violent crime, or that the accused will seek to intimidate witnesses, or otherwise unlawfully interfere with the administration of justice. The rules also specify the factors that judges should consider in determining release conditions. This includes factors pertaining to the crime and prior criminal history; indicators of community ties; and other factors such as reputation and mental condition.
Status on the Review Process
The review that was completed by Shiquan Liao, Ph.D., Statistician at King County Department of Judicial Administration, was a perfunctory two hour review. He has requested the raw data from the research. Dr. George S. Bridges, Ph.D. sent raw data to Judge Deborah D. Fleck and similar data to the Minority and Justice Commission on disk.
The sub-committee raised a series of questions for discussion. The first was a suggestion to move towards looking at disparity issues, not evaluation of the research data. The committee discussed the issue.
The second question was about the sub-committee's direction and whether its efforts should be redefined. Is it legitimate to re-visit existing data from earlier research reports? The sub-committee discussed the question.
A third question was about the overarching goal for the sub-committee. It was believed that the sub-committee has the best of intentions, but research project schedules have had unrealistic time limitations. This issue should be addressed before the next research project is started.
The sub-committee discussed a question around the origins of unequal treatment and bias? Does the problem begin with the police, the public defenders' offices, etc.?
The last question was about recommendations on release standards and whether they are consistent from court to court.
Suggestions for the Sub-committee
Another suggestion was to establish sub-committee protocol for the release of report findings. A major concern from the "Bridges" report was that it was released to the public before the Research sub-committee or the full Commission had a chance to review or discuss the findings. By including a sub-committee or commission review process, a lot of problems can be eliminated. The correct protocol might include a schedule and timeline which allows for questions to be asked of and answered by the researcher before release of the findings and recommendations.
Another suggestion raised by committee members was for judges to meet with screeners from various courts and discuss how release standards are developed and implemented. The research sub-committee could coordinate an informal meeting to discuss questions about personal recognizance, and statewide judicial and non-judicial release standards.
The sub-committee could also look at specific court rule factors. The sub-committee should look at the big picture of research project results more than the minutiae of individual pieces of the data if it is suggested or found that bias exists. They need to look at the global issues of discrimination and who makes the initial decisions. This is the first place where the possibility of bias can occur.
Recommendation to the Executive Committee
Suggestions for Research Projects from the Sub-committee
- The sub-committee will seek direction and clarity from the Executive Committee on what activities and projects the Research Sub-committee should pursue.
- Look at the community's perception of bias in the courts. The sub-committee could review the "Wilson Study" on how courts operate and/or review data from the public forums sponsored by the Minority and Justice Task Force.
- Revisit the Work Force Diversity Survey Statistics from the Minority and Justice Task Force.
- Review statewide employment data on women and women of color in law firms and the government.
- Make some recommendations for change based on prior research data/studies.
The committee decided that there are a number of questions that need to be answered before any preliminary decisions can be made about how to proceed. Ms. Donna McConnell-Adams, however, will gather background information for committee members, including:
The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.
- (1) The "Wilson Study. "
- (2) Gender and Justice Commission studies/reports/research goals.
- (3) Identifying other commissions or groups who are looking at bias issues in the courts to identify any potential overlapping efforts.
- (4) The Work Force Diversity study/survey from the Task Force