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Kings Inn of Court agenda focuses on bias in courtroom

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

October 3, 2018 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Jeff Miller, Domenick Napoletano, Andy Fallek and Andrew Leftt. Photo by Chuck Otey
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Panel Shows How Stereotypical Thinking Often Wins Over ‘Mindful Thinking’

The Kings County Nathan R. Sobel Inn of Court, led this year by President Victoria Lombardi, tackled one of the most slippery and insidious issues lawyers and judges confront inside the courtroom (and in everyday life): bias — patent, latent and otherwise.

Leading the discussion with aplomb and insight were Hon. Joanne Quinones, Anthony Vaughn and Justin Blash. Other members of the panel included Shantae Johnson, Jeffrey Miller, Avery Okin, Joy Thompson and Kerry Ward.

Engaging the audience at 123 Remsen St., they conducted a series of tests calculated to subtly provoke biased responses to otherwise inane questions. It gave the program an entertaining and revealing theme: Are we really aware of our biases?

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A discussion point that often arose was the concept of implicit bias, which is described as a “tendency for stereotype–confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds.”


Even Pain Medication Prescriptions Reflect Racial Bias

One of the main themes that became apparent was cited from literature provided for the program, which reflects a hard reality of these times.

“Field experiments demonstrate that real-world discrimination continues and is widespread,” the literature read. “White applicants get about 50 percent more callbacks than black applicants with the same resumes; college professors are 26 percent more likely to respond to a student’s email when it is signed by Brad rather than Lamar.”

Equally disturbing, according to those who fashioned the evening’s literature, is a finding that “(P)hysicians recommend less pain medication for black patients than white patients with the same injury.”

In addition to Lombardi, Inn officers this year are President-elect Joseph Rosato, Counselor Justice Carl Landicino, Treasurer Anthony Vaughn and Secretary Justice Sylvia Ash. Jeff Feldman is the Inn’s executive director.

Did Kavanaugh Crack Under Pressure of Hearing?

Even some of his supporters were taken aback last week when Supreme Court nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh lost his cool before the Senate Judicial Committee, damaging his reputation for judicial temperament and displaying deep and troubling political bias when he blasted his foes as people out to “destroy my family and good name.” He likened the opposition’s fervor to wreaking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and “outside leftwing opposition groups.”

These utterings came close in time to the now legendary verbal onslaught waged by two women who confronted moderate Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator and convinced him that Republicans would be committing mortal political sin if they prevented an FBI probe into Kavanagh’s background, particularly examining alleged sexual misbehavior on his part.

Does this mean that every Democrat, “left-winger” or Clintonite who appears before him at the Supreme Court after the Republicans shove his nomination down the throats of so many Americans will feel his wrath?

While this in no way justifies his alleged behavior, alcoholism is now widely recognized as a disease and not a weakness in character. In what category can we place Kavanaugh’s stunning outburst, which qualified him as a commentator on Fox News but raised serious questions about his fitness to serve on our highest court?

Also, is it fair or just to hold a man accountable for acts against women he reportedly committed long before he ascended the federal bench? Television gourmet host Rama Lakshmi, while admitting for the first time to being raped when she was 16, made this point: “Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.”


Next: The Columbian Lawyers to Deal with Bias

When members of the Kings County Columbian Lawyers Association, led this year by Joseph Rosato, gather at the Rex Manor, 1100 60th St., tonight, they will explore a topic with notable linkage to the Kings County Inn of Court program described herein. The title is “Italians in America: Victims of Discrimination and Advocates for Inclusion and Diversity.” Carmelo Grimaldi and Michael Scotto will chair the session, which gets underway at 6 p.m. and will provide one hour of CLE credit in diversity, inclusion and elimination of bias to those who take part. Reservations are required; call 718-288-1130.

Steve Cohn Sets Pumpkin Party for Nov. 2

Barrister Steve Cohn reports that he will once again be staging his big pre-election Pumpkin Cheesecake Party on Nov. 2. This event, which is traditionally held on the Friday before voters cast their ballots, draws leaders from our political, civic and business communities. For more than a decade, these pumpkin parties at Junior’s have drawn capacity breakfast crowds at the popular eatery.


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