State chief justice urges courts to 'provide equal justice for all' and join 'a battle for the nation’s soul'

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The first black Connecticut Supreme Court chief justice sent a letter to employees of the state’s judicial system Tuesday, urging them to “double and even triple our efforts to provide equal justice for all those that we serve.”

“I know that I am asking a lot of you,” wrote Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson, who became judge of the Connecticut Appellate Court in 2007 before joining the state supreme court in 2013. “I know that you are tired, you are weary and maybe even rightfully disillusioned, but this is a battle for the nation’s soul.”

The Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Law Tribune have coverage.

Robinson’s letter comes as national outrage over the death of George Floyd and calls for an end to systemic racism continue across the country. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground, pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck and ignoring Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

Robinson wrote that while some do not think there is racial injustice in the United States, “as the events in my own life, as well as events in this country throughout the years have informed me, indeed there is.”

Robinson reflected on his own experience, he wrote, which is bookended by the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, in 2008. He also pointed to his decades of work inside a legal system that helped sustain inequality.

“People who do not believe that we have a racial injustice problem are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts,” he said. “Simply put, the facts are with me.”

Robinson contended that while he doesn’t intend to disparage “law enforcement or our judicial systems,” he loves “this country enough to speak out when it is not living up to its ideals.”

“I love this country despite its imperfections, but that does not mean that I am willing to accept them,” he wrote. “In fact, I am ready, willing and able to do the work to eradicate them.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has responded to the murder of Floyd and others in the black community by creating a task force to propose police reforms. The CT Mirror also reports that Connecticut U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy plan to join lawmakers in introducing police reform legislation.

The California Supreme Court also issued a statement Thursday, saying “it is all too clear that the legacy of past injustices inflicted on African Americans persists powerfully and tragically to this day.”

“In our profession and in our daily lives, we must confront the injustices that have led millions to call for a justice system that works fairly for everyone,” the court added. “Each member of this court, along with the court as a whole, embraces this obligation.

“As members of the legal profession sworn to uphold our fundamental constitutional values, we will not and must not rest until the promise of equal justice under law is, for all our people, a living truth.”

Updated June 11 at 2:07 p.m. to add information about the California Supreme Court.

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