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MacArthur Justice Center Seeks Greater Transparency Around Missouri Supreme Court’s Racial and Ethnic Fairness Commission

Today the MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis filed a Sunshine request with the Missouri Supreme Court seeking all records relating to the work of the Racial and Ethnic Fairness Commission in order to press for greater transparency and accountability around the group’s efforts.

As noted in the Center’s letter to the Court, the Commission has convened only three times since established in 2015. MJC fears the Commission, under the Court’s supervision, has done little to actually engage impacted persons of color in our community. In addition, it appears the Commission has failed to undertake much in the way of meaningful reform – particularly relating to the way in which youth of color continue to be negatively impacted by the Missouri justice system.

Mae Quinn, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis, explained: “When the Commission was formed in 2015 I wrote to the Court in my role as Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee for the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. We lauded the Court’s efforts in admitting problems. But we went on to note that ‘immediate meaningful address’ was needed – not more discussions and conversations.” “But sadly,” Quinn continued, “my fear that the committee would produce more talk and no action appears to have come to pass nearly two years later.”

In her 2016 Howard Law Review article, “Post-Ferguson Social Engineering: Problem-Solving Justice or Just Posturing,” Quinn also warned that “installing yet another hand-selected group of judges and lawyers— many political insiders who helped build and maintain the current system—to conduct a four-year study of something so readily apparent hardly seems like a recipe for meaningful response and reform.”

The MacArthur Justice Center chose to file its request today, the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision of In Re Gault, given its continuing concerns about ongoing negative impact of the state’s juvenile court system on youth of color. This is also the first day of the three-day long National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Court, which is being hosted in St. Louis by the Missouri court system.

Quinn notes: “Particularly on the anniversary of the case that established constitutional rights for court- involved kids, and the week when Missouri is sponsoring an event intended to highlight best court practices, there should be open and honest assessment of issues impacting people of color in our justice system. We need real and material change, in the here and now, to comply with 21st century values.”

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The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) at St. Louis is a non-profit, public interest law firm that advocates criminal and juvenile justice system reforms. MJC was founded in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur to advocate for human rights and social justice through litigation. The St. Louis office opened in the summer of 2016. MJC also has offices in Chicago (at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law), New Orleans, at the University of Mississippi Law School, and in Washington, D.C.

For more on MJC-STL, go to: http://stl.macarthurjusticecenter.org/index.html? or contact Mae Quinn, Director, MJC-STL at 314-254-8541 or mae.quinn@macarthurjustice.org.

PDF of Sunshine request HERE »

Keywords: Missouri Supreme Court, Racial and Ethnic Fairness Commission, Sunshine

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