It’s rather serendipitous that my years working with the Commission began with the initial report, which was highly critical of the way minorities were treated in the court system, and ends with the Jeh Johnson report, which is highly critical of the way minorities are treated in the court system. One might think that little has changed in the past 30 years, but one would be wrong. We have made significant progress over the decades. People of color are now found at every level of the judiciary and throughout the Unified Court System.
But what the Johnson report makes crystal clear, and what we already know, is that we have not reached the promised land of full equity and full participation in the justice system. The Commission is every bit as important and every bit as relevant today as it was when the Commission on Minorities was established in the late 1980s. Ours is a struggle against the status quo and complacency. Ours is a mission to ensure that the goal of equality does not become an “out of sight, out of mind” proposition.
The fact that the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission is a permanent commission is a recognition by the Unified Court System that eternal vigilance is required.
I’m encouraged by the parallels I see in the response of the court system to the initial report and the most recent report. Thirty years ago, Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, while distressed and embarrassed by the findings, stood with us and pledged his commitment to improving the environment, and with his support and the support of his successors, we’ve made strides. Likewise, the ink was barely dry on the Johnson report when Chief Judge DiFiore acknowledged that there’s work to do and immediately went about implementing the recommendations. I know that the co-chairs, members and staff of the Commission who I have so enjoyed working with will work with the Chief Judge and Alphonso David in taking our cause to the next plateau, and I leave with gratitude and optimism.
Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Dean, NYS Judicial Institute, Retired
Hon. Juanita Bing Newton served as the Dean of the New York State Judicial Institute from April 2009 until her retirement in December of 2020. Prior to her appointment as Dean in April 2009, Judge Newton served as the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives (1999-2009). In that capacity, Judge Newton was empowered to evaluate, identify and assess impediments to justice, and to devise and implement initiatives to address them. She also served as the Administrative Judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York (2003-2009). Judge Newton previously was the Administrative Judge of the New York County Supreme Court, Criminal Term (1994-1999) and a felony trial judge of that court (1986-1994).
In addition to her trial and administrative experience, Judge Newton has been extensively involved in judicial education. She has actively participated in the Institute for Faculty Excellence in Judicial Education at the University of Memphis as a student, faculty member and advisory board member (2001-2007).
During her judicial career, Judge Newton served on numerous judicial, governmental and bar committees, including the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, Commission on Sentencing Reform, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, New York County Lawyers’ Association Task Force to Increase Diversity in the Legal Profession, Commission on Drugs and the Courts, Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities, Judicial Commission on Minorities in the Courts and Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts.
Judge Newton received her B.A. from Northwestern University and J.D. from the Catholic University of America School of Law.