Rep. Williams questions lack of response from governor over reopening judicial nominating process

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is questioning the lack of response by Governor Raimondo to her call for reopening the judicial nominating process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 23, Representative Williams publicly urged Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission to reopen the application process for three judicial vacancies in response to the pandemic, which affected Rhode Island’s minority communities particularly harder than most. The application period ended on April 30. 

Representative Williams states that the nominating process began during the panicked first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the deadline also landing right in the middle of the lock-down. This resulted in many qualified and excellent candidates of color for these judicial vacancies to be unable to participate in the process and apply for the openings on the bench.  During this time, the governor, along with the Department of Health, declared that Rhode Island’s minority communities were the population hardest hit during the pandemic, therefore, leaving these candidates to prioritize the health and safety of their families first. 

«During the past few months, there have been numerous extensions and exceptions implemented by the governor for all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, we find it troubling and disappointing, especially during this time of significant racial introspection, that the governor simply once again ignored the call to help diversify our state’s court system. We were not even afforded a response to our question which is highly unacceptable, but sadly, predictable.» 

«The lack of a diverse judicial system that accurately reflects the multicultural demographics of our state has been a long-standing problem that must be rectified. This problem has only been exacerbated with this arbitrary deadline that affects our jurists of color the most. If the governor truly wished to have a fair and diverse judiciary, she would reopen the application process so that qualified applicants, especially those of color, who were predominantly occupied with caring for and supporting their families during the pandemic, may have the opportunity to apply for these judicial positions. Now, more than ever, is the time to fight back against the systematic injustices that have plagued our state for centuries and one aspect of this fight for justice is finally creating a diverse judiciary system. These efforts toward total equality, fairness, transparency, and systematic change for the better will only be possible if the application and nominating process is reopened.» 

«We have all heard the governor preach that ‘we must all rise up together,’ yet, her actions prove that her words mean nothing, and once again, her behavior clearly demonstrates a completely opposite message to our community of color and the oppressed within our state. Her actions, whether it is due to her own personal beliefs, or other political interests and factors that are preventing her from making the moral choice of reopening the judicial nominating process, what is clear is that she has abandoned, ignored, and ultimately dismissed, numerous and real qualified applicants, many of those who are of color, and in the process, the governor stands in the way of meaningful, moral, and substantial societal change. Talk is cheap, but ignoring a loud and growing chorus of voices demanding equality is even worse. We expect a response and the reasoning behind the governor’s decision to adhere to the April 30 deadline. That much we deserve, rather than being disregarded in the hopes that our movement will grow silent, which it will not,» concluded Representative Williams. 

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