Social Justice Prosecutors
For years, many have bemoaned the slide of America’s higher education system down the slippery slope of moral relativism and the embracing of virtually all facets of progressive dogma while rejecting most elements of conservatism. The mere invitation of a conservative commentator to speak on college campuses is now reason enough for rioting and mass student protests. Bozo the Clown has a better chance of giving a commencement address at an Ivy League school than does Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, or their conservative contemporaries. Nowhere is this truth more prevalent than at our most prestigious law schools, and the products of those schools are now reflecting that decades-long liberal drift.
Individuals from this new class of legal eagles have advanced in all branches of government and at all levels -- local, state, and federal. They have attended notable law schools, they are African-American, and they are hellbent on ushering in an era of seeking what today’s liberal law schools are pouring into their students by the bucket full -- not “justice” but “social justice.”
Now finding themselves in positions of power, these social justice warriors have a deep-rooted belief in the fundamental unfairness of America in general, and our judicial system in particular. They believe that crimes for which underprivileged groups, namely blacks and Latinos, have higher rates of sentencing and incarceration, are the product of an at best a biased, and at worst a racist system; a system which they are a part of and can find ways to affect. One example is when the Obama/Holder DOJ released 6,000 people from federal prisons and reduced the sentences of as many as 46,000 others as a part of their sentencing-reform efforts in 2015.
Those at the executive and legislative level include names like Barack Obama (a ’91 Harvard Law graduate), Eric Holder (’73 Columbia), Kamala Harris (’89 Cal-Berkeley), and Loretta Lynch (’84 Harvard), among others. These are nationally prominent figures; however, those in the judicial level are of much lesser note. Few Americans can name a judge or two, and judges tend not to be in the news, thus this infiltration has happened largely under the radar. Were it not for the egregiousness of her actions and the celebrity status of Jessie Smollett, Kim Foxx would exist in relative anonymity.
The decision by Cook County Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (’97 Southern Illinois) to dismiss all sixteen felony charges against Jessie Smollett, wipe his record clean, seal documents from public view, and allow him to walk with only time served (16 hours of community service at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition) is representative of an ever-growing class of young ethnic-minority lawyers advancing through the ranks of our judicial system and taking it upon themselves to place a thumb on what used to and should be the blind scales of justice in favor of the “marginalized.”
Foxx has drawn the ire of Chicago law enforcement, and apparently this is not the first time. A Washington Post article on Foxx’s malfeasance included this: “It’s outrageous, but this is nothing new for Kim Foxx,” said Martin Preib, second vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7.”
The Chicago P.D. has argued that Foxx, who is African-American, has a pattern of favoring offenders over cops. Foxx is not alone. Last November, another young African-American attorney, Rachel Rollins (’99 Georgetown), won her race to become Suffolk County (Boston, MA) district attorney. After the election, Rollins published to her website a list of charges that her office will not be prosecuting, including larceny, shoplifting, drug possession with intent to distribute, and resisting arrest. She is simply not going to prosecute those arrested for these crimes, stating:
“Instead of prosecuting, these cases should be (1) outright dismissed prior to arraignment or (2) where appropriate, diverted and treated as a civil infraction for which community service is satisfactory…”
As is the case with the cantankerous relationship between prosecutor and police department in Chicago, Rollins and the local P.D. don’t appear to be bosom buddies. Boston Police Protection Union President Michael Leary is quoted as saying:
“Our job is already dangerous. It’s unbelievable to think people are willing to make it more dangerous for us. I fear that officers will begin to see even more aggressiveness than we already face on a daily basis… if there are no consequences, offenders will figure ‘why not resist?’”
Earlier this month, Brooklyn’s new District Attorney Eric Gonzalez (’92 Cornell) introduced what his office has dubbed as “sweeping reforms” via his Justice 2020 Initiative. According to the DA’s website, “Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced his plan for a groundbreaking initiative to transform Brooklyn’s justice system into a progressive model designed to keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all.” There it is: “equal justice for all.” What do the initiative’s reforms looks like? It’s first two pillars read:
“Considering non-jail resolutions at every juncture of a case…”
“Establishing early release as the default position…”
No discussion about the incredible things liberals do is complete without California. Perhaps following the lead of Contra Costa County (San Francisco Bay Area), which in 2009 announced that assaults, thefts, burglaries, and felony drug cases would no longer be prosecuted, California voters passed Proposition 47, which essentially introduced crime with no consequences to the Golden State.
Prop 47, the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative” is very pro-thief. Under its provisions, offenses that were once felonies, including shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and more, are recategorized as misdemeanors. It states that theft of property worth less than $950 is not prosecutable. Such thefts result in the perpetrators getting the equivalent of a warning for J-walking. They face essentially no punishment.
Predictably, retailers and the law-abiding public are feeling the hurt. This quote showed up in National Review: “Every bicycle in our building has been stolen,” says Karen Burns, president of a San Francisco condo association. “I’ve caught so many people stealing packages. They don’t care. They know nothing will happen to them. It’s crazy. It’s horrible.”
Large retailers say shoplifting has increased at least 15 percent, and in some cases doubled since voters approved Prop 47. Fox News wrote that “shoplifting reports to the Los Angeles Police Department jumped by a quarter in the first year,” and added this incredible bit of detail, "We've heard of cases where they're going into stores with a calculator so they can make sure that what they steal is worth less than $950," said Robin Shakely, Sacramento County assistant chief deputy district attorney.”
The Independent Sentinel carried this story about one local business owner: “Hobby shop owner Perry Lutz says his struggle to survive as a small businessman became a lot harder after California voters reduced theft penalties 1½ years ago.
“About a half-dozen times this year, shoplifters have stolen expensive drones or another of the remote-controlled toys he sells in HobbyTown USA, a small shop in Rocklin, northeast of Sacramento. ‘It’s just pretty much open season,’ Lutz said. ‘They’ll pick the $800 unit and just grab it and run out the door.’”
Thieves know that if it’s worth less than $950, they will not be pursued by law enforcement, and even if they are, and they’re caught, there will be no penalty.
This new breed of lawyers who’ve been raised and trained on “social justice” in our law schools are becoming prosecutors and judges and are slowly changing the landscape of our legal system. While they publicly state a belief that their reforms are “making communities safer,” it’s difficult to see how. What they are really doing is enabling criminal behavior in the name of “fairness and equality.” Exactly how it’s fair to allow people to get away with criminal activity is unclear, but this much is certain -- they are steadily moving up the justice system ranks.
Derrick Wilburn is a Centennial Institute Fellow and Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives