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Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Supreme Court Task Force on Racial Bias in the Judicial System

Active dates:1990-1993
The supreme court shall study racial bias in the judicial system in Minnesota. The court shall appoint an advisory task force to assist with the study. The study must examine the extent to which racial bias exists in the judicial system, including the existence of discriminatory treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors, judges, attorneys, and court personnel who are members of racial minorities. The study should: 
    (1) identify positions within the judicial system including, but not limited to, judges, judicial clerks, court reporters, judicial administrators and their staff, county attorneys, public defenders and their staff, and identify minority representation or underrepresentation in the positions;
    (2) review sentencing patterns to see if the length or conditions of sentences vary based on the defendant's race;
    (3) review the jury selection process, including grand juries, to determine the representation or underrepresentation of minority populations on juries and determine if the use of peremptory strikes varies based on the juror's race; and
    (4) review other aspects of court operations as appropriate to identify patterns of different and unequal treatment of racial minority persons.
The task force shall report its findings and recommendations to the legislature by January 1, 1993.

The Task Force collected data on Minnesota court decisions and proceedings, administrative procedures, treatment of litigants and witnesses, and hiring and treatment of people of color within the court system. Committees of the Task Force were formed to focus on the broad areas of criminal, civil, and family and juvenile law. Addressing problems facing the criminal justice system was of particular concern. The Criminal Process Committee was formed to look specifically at whether or not race affects arrests, detention on probable cause, charging offenses, bail, plea negotiations, jury selection, sentencing, the treatment of victims, and other related issues. The Task Force studied the adequacy of Minnesota's interpreter resources for non-English speakers as well.

The Task Force also created a Juvenile and Family Law Committee charged with investigating whether or not there are race-related differences in the area of children in need of protective services (CHIPS), foster care policies and procedures, and issues related to juvenile delinquency.

The Task Force's Access, Representation and Interaction & General Civil Process Committee probed such issues as access to representation, especially in civil matters, access to the profession for people of color, including a look at the Minnesota Bar examination, and the hiring and retention of minority lawyers. The Committee also looked at judicial evaluation and the treatment of minority judges. The methodologies used to collect this data included the commissioning of research studies, interviews, and public hearings at nine sites across the state. In addition, questionnaires were sent to all 261 trial court judges and referees, over 4,000 attorneys, 860 victim services providers and nearly 1,000 probation officers. [Information in these three paragraphs was taken from the introduction to the 1993 final report linked to below.]

The Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Racial Bias in the Courts released its final report on June 10, 1993.  On the same day, by order of the court, the Implementation Committee on Multicultural Diversity and Racial Fairness in the Courts (Implementation Committee) was established to put the report recommendations into action. The Supreme Court also established implementation committees, now known as Equal Justice Committees, in each judicial district to assist in these efforts.

Related to:
Implementation Committee

Chair: Honorable Rosalie E. Wahl, Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court

For full membership please see the 1993 report linked below. 

Internet resource:
Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
News clippings and documents. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1990.
Record last updated: 07/17/2020

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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