Missouri Supreme Court establishes commission on minority fairness

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COLUMBIA – The Missouri Supreme Court has formed the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. 

“This is a good step by our judicial system in the state of Missouri that doing research and determining whether or not any disparities exist is a laudable effort,” lawyer Nimrod Chapel Jr. said.

Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge announced the new commission Thursday in an address to the Missouri Bar and the Judicial Conference of Missouri. 

“We all need to do everything we can to ensure that every individual in every case in our system of justice is treated with respect and has his or her case adjudicated fairly and impartially according to the law. Until that is true in 100 percent of our courts, we cannot rest. Even a perception of justice denied anywhere should concern us all, no matter who or where we are,” Breckenridge said in the address.

Chapel said minority representation is a national issue, especially in terms of making sure everyone has access to justice. Chapel is also the president of the Jefferson City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He said people of various backgrounds feel there are issues that need to be addressed in the judicial system.

“I think that the criminal system is probably one that we have to acknowledge that there is some real inappropriate disparities for the people who are financially disadvantaged,” Chapel said. 

University of Missouri professor and member of the Asian Affairs Association Seungkwon You said this commission is a good way to make people aware of the importance of diversity in representation.

“In Missouri we have few minorities compared to other states. So sometimes people are not aware of the importance of representing minority in government or in Congress or in the judicial system,” You said.

Missouri Bar President Reuben Shelton and Judge George Draper will serve as liaisons to the commission.

The commission will focus on six study areas: the judicial system, the civil justice system, the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system, the municipal justice system and the practice of law.

The order establishing the commission is located on the Missouri court's website