Evansville bench, bar backing words on racial injustice with actions 

The Evansville Bar Association has put forward a detailed plan to address the problems of racial inequality and injustice by not only educating local legal professionals but also fostering a conversation within the larger community.

Both immediate and long-term steps are part of the plan. The EBA Board of Directors tapped the association’s Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Access to Justice committees to make recommendations for raising awareness about racial equality, equity and justice. After considering those recommendations, the EBA announced it would be immediately implementing several key initiatives.

Pointing to protests and calls for racial equality that erupted in Evansville and across the country, Vanderburgh Superior Magistrate Judge Molly Briles said the local bar association felt the need to do more than put out a statement. Identifying the concrete steps being taken to provide a remedy is important, she said, to ensure the words are followed by actual change.

“The bench and bar have a duty to fight against injustice and use our leadership skills to make a difference,” Briles, co-chair of the Access to Justice Committee, said. “As lawyers we have the ability to advocate for those who need it.”

Specifically for the legal profession, the Evansville Bar Association will:

  • begin to circulate to its members links to articles or videos to increase awareness and education relating to racial inequality, inequity and injustice.
  • offer, over the next 12 months, a variety of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program relating to racial justice issues. These CLEs may include topics related to legal observer training, dialogues with local law enforcement, implicit bias training, and ethical considerations for attorneys.
  • encourage implement of the Mansfield Rules for all legal hiring decision to increase diversity and inclusion among the bench and far.
  • require each of its sections and committees to conduct an internal review to determine how the section or committee can better increase awareness and offer education on relevant issues relating to racial equality, equity and justice.
  • develop, in conjunction with the Diversity and Inclusion and the Access to Justice committees, a strategic plan over the next six months to review and strengthen the goals and initiatives.

Within the wider community, the Evansville Bar Association will:

  • seek to join local government and community task forces relating to racial justice issues.
  • initiate, through its Access to Justice Committee, a pro bono and/or reduced cost expungement project.
  • establish, through its Diversity and Inclusion Committee, increased community outreach and internal programming. Such programming would include renewing the bar association’s relationship with the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) and developing a diverse candidate scholarship fund for summer clerkships and/or judicial clerkships.

Briles said the inclusion of the steps for community involvement comes from the board’s recognition that tackling the issues requires a multi-layered approach. Having an open dialogue and hearing from all sides will help bring meaningful change, she said.

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