June 17, 2020 – Systemic racism and discrimination is an inescapable reality for Black Americans and other marginalized people in our communities – despite Congress passing the Civil Rights Act nearly 60 years ago. In recent weeks, millions of people across our communities have come together in a historic movement calling for fundamental change.
Black Americans suffer from police brutality and crippling fear caused by systemic racism and implicit bias that is ingrained in our legal system, law enforcement institutions, and countless other facets of American life. This is unacceptable. Black Lives Matter.
Many of us cannot fathom the pain that the Black community experiences daily. Many of us don’t know the agony of losing a father, a mother, a sister or brother, a son, or daughter to police violence. Many of us don’t know what it’s like to live in fear for our lives due to the color of our skin.
We Have a Responsibility to Act
Whether we realize it or not, all of us are negatively impacted by the long history and sustained legacy of oppression of Black Americans. As lawyers, we have a duty to act. We have a responsibility to our communities.
Jill Kastner is State Bar of Wisconsin president, Kathy Brost is president-elect, Cheryl Daniels is incoming president-elect, and Chris Rogers is past president. Larry Martin is the executive director of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
As lawyers, we take an oath to support the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions. These documents speak of individual freedom and equal protection of the laws.
The State Bar of Wisconsin, with more than 25,000 attorneys, must play a stronger role in this national awakening. Lawyers are an important part of the justice system, stewards of the rule of law, and must take collective action to help right wrongs. We cannot be silent.
“Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building. We hear “equal justice” but continue to see unequal justice, justice denied. Aspirational pronouncements mean nothing without collective efforts to achieve them.
As members of the legal profession and as citizens striving to create a more just society, we stand with Black Lives Matter protesters demanding change in our justice system and in the other institutions inflicted by systemic racism and implicit bias.
You will hear from us shortly about what the State Bar of Wisconsin will do to step up its efforts to combat racial injustice and disparities, advance equal justice, and promote diversity and Inclusion.
We know this is not easy work. It will be uncomfortable. We must insist on real change. And, we need your help. Don’t sit on the sidelines.
It is time for real change.
Advocate for Change: How You Can Help
The State Bar of Wisconsin needs your help to expand access to justice for all. Our policy priorities aim to significantly address disparities throughout Wisconsin’s justice system, including:
- expungement and bail reform;
- juvenile justice;
- civil legal funding;
- exoneree compensation; and
- adequate investment in all aspects of the justice system.