Midyear Meeting

Confederate symbols should be removed from courthouses, ABA House says

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Confederate statue being removed from a courthouse grounds by construction workers

A bronze statue of an unnamed Confederate soldier is removed from the Albemarle County Circuit Courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, in September 2020. (Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP)

Confederate memorabilia “and other symbols of racial and ethnic bias” should be removed from facilities where court proceedings are held, according to a resolution passed Monday by the ABA House of Delegates.

Resolution 402 was submitted by the Virgin Islands Bar Association and heard by the House during the 2023 ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans. An accompanying report notes that ABA’s Goal III is eliminating bias and enhancing diversity in the profession.

Shari D’Andrade, a Virgin Islands delegate, spoke in favor of the resolution.

“To all, especially those who look like me, these are a reminder of injustice and hatred,” said D’Andrade, who is Black.

A Tennessee courthouse is cited as an example in the resolution report. Located in Giles County, juries deliberate in what the report refers to as a “Confederate Jury Room.” Room decorations include a Confederate flag, portraits of Confederate leaders and United Daughters of the Confederacy symbols, the report states.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2023 ABA Midyear Meeting here.

Tim Gilbert, a Tennessee criminal defendant convicted of aggravated assault, had a jury that deliberated in the Confederate Jury Room. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a new trial in 2021, finding that the jury was exposed to improper outside influence and the state did not sufficiently rebut the presumption of prejudice.

“As the voice of the legal profession in the United States, the ABA is uniquely situated to recognize the adverse impact on the administration of justice that stems from the presence of Confederate memorabilia and other symbols of racial and ethnic bias in the interior and exterior of courthouses, and to advocate for their removal,” the report states.

No one rose to speak in opposition to the measure.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Judicial portraits and Confederate monuments stir debate on bias in the justice system”

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