Direct Action Around the Clinic, a DP & CRT

August 30, 2013

To Whom It May Concern at SU Law and UW Law:

RE: UW Law (and now SU’s) new Prosecution Clinic

UW Law administrators and faculty have chosen to pursue a collaborative effort with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to convict people for misdemeanors in King County.  Recently we learned SU students will be able to participate also.

The administration says it is a great chance for students to develop their advocacy skills, and that they’ll be sensitized to topics of race and the law, and racial disparities in particular.

However, we know better.

We know that just two months ago the KCPO lost–on appeal–a case for rejecting jurors based on race.

We know that the year before that, a senior prosecutor–Konat–got called out by the Washington Supreme Court for telling jurors that they shouldn’t pay any mind to the black witnesses.

We know through these and other interactions that the KCPO is focused on simply fighting full force, with little to no awareness about racial justice.

UW Law doesn’ t see a problem with all this.  That’s not surprising in an institution where we have three African American faculty.  We have no diversity plan.  No critical race theorist.  And though students have been pushing for a DP and a CRT for years, we have been consistently ignored by the administration and faculty.

The time has come for us to say enough is enough.

We are organizing for a direct action against UW Law, against the Prosecution Clinic and for a Diversity Plan and a Critical Race Theorist at UW Law.  The time, date, and location are to be determined.  We know we will have music, poetry, representatives of concerned community groups…

How can we stop this Clinic?  How can we promote racial justice?  How can we convince an almost-exclusively white and privileged institution like UW Law that they shouldn’t team up with the KCPO?

When the Supreme Court came down on Konat’s case two years ago, the NAACP called for him to be fired.  Instead he was allowed to use up all his vacation time, keep making that $142K/yr and then quietly leave the office just last year.

No.  No more quiet.  No more, “we don’t have money for a diversity plan,” no more one-sided support of the prosecutor, no more intentional blindness with lips blandly referencing “The New Jim Crow” and thinly excusing their pre-determined course of action by alleging an awareness of “racial disparities.”

The time for action is now.  Please email us at uwlawracialjustice@gmail.com to get involved.

Yours,
UW Law Students

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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

UW Law and Diversity

Our Own Backyard

For years now, UW Law students have been pushing for a Critical Race Theorist and a Diversity Plan that would touch the whole school and equip all law students with knowledge of the weaknesses of the justice system and our own school.  UW Law’s administration’s proposed Prosecution Clinic would touch only 8 students per year.

Prosecution Clinic

UW Law administrators have arranged a Prosecution Clinic with a touted goal of preparing future prosecutors to lessen the unjust proportion of black and brown people hurt by the criminal justice system.

Bias

There is no defense component to this Clinic.  Rather than a prosecution-defense Criminal Justice Clinic, like unto that at Chicago, we are providing only one side of the fight–the prosecutor’s office–with free labor in the form of 8 UW Law students.

Prosecutors generally have more financial resources already, and so the balances are tipped even more in their favor.

Racial Bias in Seattle

The Seattle Police Department has a reputation for racial profiling, and UW Law may be prosecuting the most vulnerable members of our community.

Historical Role of Clinics

Clinics have generally provided services for those with none.  The Children’s Advocacy Clinic, for example, or the Immigration Law Clinic, have provided services for people with nowhere else to turn.

Existing Clinics Already Underfunded

While other clinics struggle to get off the ground or exist, the administration makes up its mind to have a prosecution clinic and it seemed to us as though money suddenly appeared.

What else?

Students have asked for other clinics including a dependency clinic, and they have signaled the lack of consumer law and civil trial advocacy opportunities at the school.  We have said that the school is inefficiently allocating funds, and that we don’t think the state should be a client.  We have said that there is already an entity fulfilling the role of prosecutor, whereas other clinics provide services unmet by our community.

The prosecution clinic serves only a handful of students, allowing them to practice their trial advocacy skills in a forum that is not currently under-resourced, and is often hostile to communities already underrepresented at UW Law.

A pair of UW professors wrote about how the lack of input hurt our sense of community and faith in curriculum decision-making.  And on the wider issues, how  they didn’t believe UW clinics should play a role in the present criminal system because of racial disproportionality, mass incarceration, the role of criminalization/incarceration in the maintenance of poverty, and because they believe clinical education should not just educate law students, but should meet unmet legal needs of underserved people.

For more thoughts on why the prosecution clinic at UW has to stop, read the letters section.  Then 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  Please be kind and respectful; the administration has been both, and anyway, honey attracts more bees than vinegar.