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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

What's Wrong With This Picture?

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on May 3, 2023

An Editorial Opinion

On April 5, 2023, before a large audience of law students and faculty members, the Alabama Supreme Court held a special session—an oral argument hearing—at the University of Alabama School of Law.

Chief Justice Tom Parker expressed hope that "Alabama Law students would be educated by seeing our courts in action, and hopefully, also inspired to pursue and walk in the paths of justice in their forthcoming legal careers.”

So, what is wrong with this picture of the event?

The Alabama Supreme Court is an all-white judicial body in a state that has a 26.6% black population, a 26.25 % black voting age population, and 26.39% black registered voters. The state's Supreme Court has been all-white since 2001. Every vacancy that has been filled on the Supreme Court by gubernatorial appointment since 2001 has been a white appointee.

The five-judge Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and five-judge Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals are all-white, as well.

In total, all 19 judgeships in Alabama's appellate court system are held by white men and women, exclusively.

The all-white Alabama Supreme Court was paraded in front of a diverse group of law students to "inspire them to pursue and walk in the path of justice" in Alabama.

Where is the "justice" in having an all-white Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals in Alabama in 2023?

Who represents the interest of Alabama's 26.6% black population in the fair administration of justice in this all-white, ultra-conservative, all-Republican court system?

How does this all-white portrait of "justice" in Alabama "inspire" black law students to believe that justice is possible for them (as lawyers) and their clients in Alabama?

By any objective definition used by people of interracial goodwill, this is a portrait of "injustice."

Obviously, the Alabama Supreme Court justices see greatness in themselves. I see an enthusiastic return to the old Jim Crow court system that defined Alabama from 1901 until 1980 -- when the first of three black justices was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court. The last black justice departed the Court in January of 2001. The Court has been all-white since his departure.

How is it possible for reasonable people to see anything else in this picture other than a return to the Jim Crow era?

Are you comfortable with this picture? I certainly am not. I have fought against the reality depicted in this picture all of my life.

Have you fought against the reality depicted in this picture, or have you embraced it?

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