Court Bias Commission Presents Findings | VideoRetha Colclasure | 11/20/2012
A courtroom can be a confusing place for those who don`t speak the legal language. But it should act the same way no matter what language a person who needs access to the courtroom speaks.
"Bias cannot be tolerated in an official system," said Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley.
This commission set out more than two years ago to find out if bias existed in North Dakota`s judicial and legal system.
"People perceive we have bias because of what they`ve heard has happened. Stories that everybody is treated this way if they have a certain skin color," said Judge Sonna Anderson.
But that`s what`s called perceived bias, not actual bias. What they found was that both kinds of bias matter.
"Native Americans felt that for some time. True or not, I don`t think we came to any conclusions," said UTTC Legal Counsel Tom Disselhorst.
Other concerns were whether immigrant populations in parts of the state feel they have adequate access to the system; if interpreters are provided for those who need them and if the racial makeup of those sitting in the jury box represent the racial makeup of a community.
"Every aspect, from police to prosecutors to juries to judges, needs to be more represented," Disselhorst said.
All agree this report was a good starting point and that the recommendations in it will go a long way towards addressing some of the issues it contains.
One thing the report did not look at was disparities in sentencing. That`s something Disselhorst hopes will be looked at in the future.