Who’s Teaching Us Racial Justice?

When students began to push back against the Prosecution Clinic, we soon realized that the administration wasn’t backing down. For years prior we had pushed for a critical race theorist and a diversity plan to address the school and profession’s deep seated race issues. While these student-proposed solutions would have had a much broader reach and a higher chance at successfully changing the climate, the administration decided to have a prosecution clinic and in two months, it was done.  In justifying the clinic, they have said it will teach students about racism in the criminal justice system.

The first email about the clinic came in February, and by April, the Prosecution Clinic was tabling at a clinic fair.  Years of student pushing led to naught, it seemed to us, and now the King County Prosecutor’s Office is going to be a part of a program that proposes to teach 8 students a year about racial disparities.

This is the same prosecutors office that in February of last year had a senior deputy prosecutor (Mr. Konat) resign after the Washington Supreme Court found he had engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct” stemming from racially charged language.

This led to Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler to file a bar complaint, and “the Supreme Court cited Konat’s comments as grounds for the conviction to be overturned, saying they cast doubt on the credibility of the witnesses based on their race. One justice called the deputy prosecutor’s comments ‘repugnant.'”  (This from The Seattle Times.)

The racially charged language was used in 2007.  Mr. Konat was not fired.  Instead, he got called out by the Washington Supreme Court in 2011, used up all his vacation and leave, and then bowed out.  Last year.

And yet this year, the UW Law administrators expect students to learn about racial disparities amid this atmosphere, an atmosphere that may be one of silent consent to a harmful status quo.

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Relevant History: The Washington Supreme Court found that King County Prosecuting Attorney Konat used racially charged language in a 2007 trial, finding that Konat referred  to police as the “PO-leese,” the justices found and that he cast doubt on the credibility of black witnesses by saying they had a code: “the code is black folk don’t testify against black folk. You don’t snitch to the police,” according to the Supreme Court decision.

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Again, please contact Dean Testy  lawdean at uw.edu and Prof. Maranville maran at uw.edu telling them why UW Law needs a Critical Race Theorist and a Diversity Plan; tell them to cancel the prosecution clinic and to commit to clinics that address unmet legal needs. And if you like, Cc us at uwlawracialjustice@gmail.com

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