Tavis Smiley, host of the late night television talk show “Tavis Smiley” on PBS, in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts, is convening a series of town hall meetings under the banner “Courting Justice,” the first of which was held in Los Angeles on June 10th and will air on PBS stations on June 22nd (check local listings). At these town hall meetings, judges from around the country are engaging in an unprecedented dialogue with the communities they serve and are providing stakeholders from disenfranchised communities an opportunity to discuss the issues that continue to erode trust in our judicial system, while offering real world solutions.
“This is essentially a listening tour–something we expect from political candidates but not from judges who preside over the highest courts in our land,” said Smiley. “I am gratified that many of the most influential judges in the country are eager to step down from the bench and engage in a free and open exchange with the people most affected by their decisions. This frank discussion is unprecedented. Securing the public’s trust in our judicial system is fundamental to our democracy.”
“In order to be fair and impartial, judges have to be equal opportunity listeners,” said Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, “While we are used to listening to the concerns of the litigants who appear in our courtrooms, our focus on resolving individual cases has in many ways kept us from seeing the forest for the trees. As a result, surveys show that there has been an erosion of trust between the courts and the communities we serve, especially communities of color. This innovative, multi-city town hall series will allow us to hear from, and listen to, new perspectives on how courts can better deliver justice for all.”
The first Town Hall meeting took place at Loyola School of Law in Los Angeles on June 10th and will be broadcast on June 22nd as part of Tavis Smiley’s nightly program on PBS stations across the country. The Town Hall will also be broadcast as part of Smiley’s weekend public radio show, “The Tavis Smiley Show” on PRI – Public Radio International. The next Town Hall will be in Little Rock, Arkansas in September followed by Cleveland, Ohio.
Participants in the Town Hall are Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (California), Chief Judge Eric T. Washington (District of Columbia) and Judge Jimmie Edwards (St. Louis), Associate Justice Maria P. Rivera (California, First District Court of Appeals, Division Four) and Judge Daniel J. Buckley (Superior Court Los Angeles County). The audience is drawn from community activists, public defenders, justice reform advocates, trial court judges, and others directly affected by the decisions of the courts. COURTING JUSTICE is co-hosted by the National Center for State Courts.
Funding for “Courting Justice” is provided by the State Justice Institute, Walmart, The California Endowment and the Public Welfare Foundation.