January 29, 2021
Today SLF Attorney Andra Kranzler filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Loren Miller Bar Association in support of Appellant Janelle Henderson, a Black American woman with Tourette’s Syndrome, who prevailed at trial, but her victory was tainted by discrimination in the courtroom before, during and after trial. The Supreme Court took direct review of her appeal. Some of the facts raised on appeal by Ms. Henderson include:
- The defense injected racially biased tropes in closing arguments;
- The all white jury awarded an inadequate verdict in light of the evidence;
- The jury asked and got the trial judge to remove Ms. Henderson from the courtroom before they exited;
- Rulings by the trial court showed bias in the courtroom.
The Loren Miller Bar Association (“LMBA”) is a Washington statewide nonprofit organization and affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association. Its 500 current and past members are primarily African American judges, attorneys, law professors, and law students. From its inception, LMBA has adopted a vigorous platform of confronting institutionalized racism and the myriad of social and economic disparities affecting the African-American community. LMBA is submitting this amicus curiae brief to support Ms. Henderson’s position that the judiciary has a critical role in preventing racial bias from affecting jury verdicts and in providing litigants relief when it does. This issue is paramount for LMBA, as attorneys have a duty to ensure civil litigation, inside and outside the courtroom, is free from prejudice and bias in any form.
The friend of the court brief outlines the unfair playing field in Washington courts experienced by persons of color affected by:
- Stereotypes that are ingrained and often unconscious, implicit biases that endure despite our best efforts to eliminate them;
- Bias by jurors;
- Bias by opposing counsel and colleagues:
- Bias by parties and witnesses;
- Bias by judges noting that the majority of judges are white and often blind to their own biases.
The brief asks the Supreme Court to exercise its inherent supervisory powers to mitigate the harm from implicit racial bias and systemic inequalities in all cases by:
- Mandating jury instructions on implicit bias;
- Addressing the makeup of the jury pools to ensure that they are diverse.