Government agencies should broadly reflect the communities they serve. Nowhere is this more important that in the Trial Court, where equal justice is a fundamental principle.
On behalf of the Massachusetts Minority Court Officers Association, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice calls on the Trial Court to strengthen its commitment to hiring and promoting qualified candidates of color – particularly women of color – across all departments and offices; to discontinue use of the flawed and discriminatory Court Officer promotional exam; and to increase transparency, starting by placing demographic employment data on the Trial Court’s website and acknowledging coverage under the Commonwealth’s Public Records law.
The culture within the Trial Court appears to be resistant to attempts to diversify the workforce and bring more transparency and public accountability to employment practices. We have heard anecdotal reports from numerous Trial Court employees – not only from Court Security but from Probate and Family Court – that cumulatively paint a highly disturbing and unflattering picture of an overall workplace culture wherein racial slurs are disturbingly common.
Numerous employees of color report a toxic racially-charged hostile environment that fosters identity-based harassment. This includes repeated use of the “n” word and calling employees of color “monkeys” and “spics”; offensive comments made to Asian-American employees; belittling remarks made to Latino employees about their accents and ability to speak English; and derogatory comments to immigrants about getting “deported.”
The issues cited above also impoverish the provision of services to the general public. In the Probate and Family Court, for example, staff responding to public inquiries and interacting with the public report that they have been discouraged from using a language line that facilitates translation and interpretation. This creates barriers to access to justice and raises serious language access problems for Boston’s growing immigrant population.
In light of these systemic problems, the Lawyers’ Committee is requesting an independent investigation from an outside entity that can probe the racial implications of the Trial Court’s culture, including the racial climate and hiring practices across all departments and offices.
The request for an independent investigation into the Trial Court’s racial climate was featured on Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, State House News Service, Worcester Telegram, Salem News, and the Bay State Banner. The Bay State Banner published a separate article focusing on Suffolk Probate Court.