Hon. Edwina Mendelson: Equal Justice in the Courts Initiative Will Result in ‘Better, More Fair’ System
Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives, has issued a 10-page memo detailing the work of the state court system’s Office for Justice Initiatives and the early stages of the Equal Justice in the Courts Initiative.
Last fall, recommendations aimed at advancing diversity and inclusion within the court system and ensuring equal justice under the law were issued in a 100-page report from Jeh Johnson, the special adviser on equal justice in the New York State courts. Johnson set forth 13 recommendations and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks assigned Mendelson to implement the recommendations within the court system.
Recommendations include expanding bias training, addressing juror bias, adopting a social media policy, enhancing trust between court officers and the community, and strengthening the inspector general process for bias complaints.
“I have been actively engaged with judicial and executive court system leaders, court managers, judges, and staff across the state to develop and implement our strategic plan on Equal Justice in the Courts,” said Mendelson. “I am also meeting with fraternal organizations, affinity groups, and other stakeholders to ensure broad-based input as implementation plans are developed and acted upon. I recently met with hundreds of supervisory judges and court managers throughout the state, and we discussed their charge in leading local implementation of this work.
“I’m happy to report that I’ve heard from a number of court leaders who have begun plans for local working groups on equal justice,” continued Mendelson. “With their support, I am confident that our implementation of the recommendations offered by the Equal Justice Report will result in a better, more fair system of justice.”
Mendelson said the Equal Justice in the Courts Initiative is still in its early stages and described it as a “multi-faceted, multi-layered, and multi-year endeavor for which we are building a foundation and a living strategic planning document to guide court leaders throughout the state.
“These efforts will not come swiftly or easily,” said Mendelson. “Racial bias and discrimination take many forms and have many layers. Much of this work intersects with other reform efforts to combat bias and discrimination related to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, disability, and more – all of which we are fully responsible to address.”