By Honorable Heather Welch, Presiding Judge | Marion Superior Court
Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili conducted an organizational meeting in Indianapolis on December 11, 2019, to address the issue of race and equity in the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive Branches of local government. More than one hundred county-wide elected officials from each branch, leaders from municipal corporations, and criminal justice agency representatives attended. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity facilitated the meeting.
GARE is a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. It is a joint project of Race Forward and the Othering and Belonging Institute, formerly the Hass Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society. GARE’s Membership Network of over 80 jurisdictions is at the forefront of local and regional governmental work to advance racial equity. The Network is a professional peer-to-peer system that enables government racial equity directors and subject area experts to exchange information, collaborate to advance their practice, and develop solutions to racial equity challenges.
The objectives at the conference on December 11 were to gain awareness of racial inequality, develop skills to address it, and be motivated to act. The GARE leaders also had the attendees participate in group exercises to think about their own views on race and equity. In addition to this conference, I have had the opportunity to attend several seminars on implicit and explicit bias through the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association chaired by Judge Bernice Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
While GARE discussed implicit and explicit bias, the ABA seminars went much further in explaining the history and statistics of inequity in government across the United States. I was moved by these collective experiences, as were my colleagues on the Marion Superior Court Executive Committee, and pledge to continue addressing inequities in the Judicial System.
The Marion County Superior Courts have focused on race and equity in the past, as seen by the Juvenile Division’s work to address the disproportionately greater number of African American youth in the system. We have made progress, but the Juvenile Court’s Data Walk statistics still unfortunately demonstrate that the judiciary has more work to do. As the Presiding Judge of the Marion Superior Courts, I look forward to working with President Osili and his colleagues on the City-County Council and Mayor Hogsett and his staff on this important issue to provide opportunities for all of Indianapolis’ citizens and to address inequities based on race and other areas of marginalization.