In the early 1990′s the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a committee to study the existence of racial disparities in the Minnesota courts. The Committee subsequently issued a long report finding the courts guilty of racial mistreatment of memebers of minorities and together with a set of statistical studies that belied the report’s findings. Although the court system has been eager in essence to confess to its own (nonexistent) mistreatment of minority members, amazingly enough neither any Minnesota judge guilty of this alleged practice, nor any wrongfully convicted or sentenced defendant, has ever been identified in connection with the issue of racial mistreatment.
The text of the Committee report found that members of racial minorities were treated poorly in Minnesota’s justice system. The statistical studies, however, strongly suggested that members of racial minorities were either treated equally or better than other Minnesotans. Nevertheless, since the issuance of the Committee’s report in 1993, the existence of wrongful racial disparities in the justice system has been the official doctrine of the Minnesota courts and the Court has required lawyers to attend elimination of bias training as a condition of maintaining a license to practice law. We are, in the immortal words of the warden in “Cool Hand Luke,” to get our minds right.
Which brings us to the saga of Angel Martinez. Martinez is a Hispanic gang member who was convicted of a serious gang-related criminal offense three years ago and sentenced to college — i.e., he was put on probation on the condition that he attend college. Mr Hernandez has tried but failed twice since then to get himself incarcerated by failing to attend school, and most recently by attending but failing three of his courses while dropping the fourth. Today’s Star Tribune reports that the judge has ordered Hernandez to return to school part-time or transfer to a less demanding technical school.
Those of us unlucky enough to have our professional lives subject to the authoritiy of the Minnesota Supreme Court would dearly love to convene a committee for the study of stupidity in the Minnesota judicial system. Surely the case of Angel Hernanandez all by itself would merit a chapter.
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