tv QA La Doris Cordell Her Honor CSPAN October 24, 2021 8:00pm-8:52pm EDT
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> they support c-span as a public service along with these other television providers. giving way front row seat to democracy. ♪ susan: you published your memoir titled "her honor." you say in the acknowledgments that people have encouraged you for a long time to publish her memoir. why was this the right time? ladoris: thank you very much for talking to me about "her honor."
the first is that i had left the bench and had time to reflect on everything that had happened on my 20 years on the bench. the second is that during the last eight years i was on the bench, i'm not sure what started it, i began writing letters every friday to my parents. these are real letters. not emails. i was writing letters for everything that happened that week. i would write on friday afternoon. if you're a friday -- trial judge, friday afternoons are light because you're planning the following week. after i retired, i went back east and i am outside of philadelphia. i visited my parents and my mother says to me. she pulls this walks out she is a very organized woman. she said what do you want me to do with these? she had kept everyone of my letters that i had written for nearly eight years once a week. i was stunned. i will take them and box them up
and mailed them back here. it took me a few years to sit down and read them. i was stunned by how much work i had done. how many cases i had heard and i did not remember them until i started reading these letters. that was something that said maybe, there is something here when i started looking at all the cases i had handled. the final thing was basically, it happened during the recall of aaron persky. i ended up by default being a spokesperson for him and against the recall. i was stunned by how and elect -- educated electorate. i am in silicon valley. generally, there are very well educated. i would talk about in context of the recall, judicial independence and how judges should that be swayed by popular opinion.
the responses i got were either what is judicial independence or that is just a cover. it is judges circling the wagon. i don't care about judicial independence. all these things that came together and you know what, people don't generally understand what it is. trial judges do. i saw this book as a vehicle to do it. i look at this book as a printer and a man wire. i have a mixed genre called a primoire. i wanted to educate and entertain. i have interesting war stories in it. i wanted to energize judges, voters and everyone because everyone at some point in their lives will be impacted by state trial court judges. those were my reasons for writing this. susan: in the 1980's, there were
nor black judges and only half -- even less women. 40 years later, how is diversity in the court system? ladoris: i was the first african-american female in northern california when i was appointed by jerry brown in 1982. it was lonely out there. there were other black female judges in california but not all of northern california until i came along. today, everything has dramatically changed. in part two jerry brown. even back in the 80's, he began the process of revolutionizing the judicial intel in california and by then i mean appointing women, people of color, folks who were gay. he really changed things. governors that came after him were more conservative and reverse it all. today, however we have a situation across the country
where it is not unusual at all to see women and judges of color on the bench. can we do better? i think we can do a lot better. it is just not unusual. when i started, it was highly unusual. if you turn on your tv and you see these judge shows, it is not unusual to see women and judges of color everywhere. it is really becoming more commonplace for people of color, women to be on the bench. i believe we can do better. susan: what has increased diversity done to the system? ladoris: the whole premise is you believe you have a stake in the system if you see people who look like you. who navy have your background. i think that is sure of anything. any system at all. it is particularly true of the judiciary. if you come into the system. if you are a litigant, if you see people in black robes who
look like you, you are more willing to trust the system, believe in it. you believe you have a steak and it. as well as when you have judges who reflect the people coming into the court. that is judges who come from working-class backgrounds, judges of color, women, judges who are gay. there is more empathy great there is a sense of ok, i will not stereotype you because you come into my court you are not just as well as others who come into my court. or you commend your young black male. i will not stereotype you. by that, there are judges who stereotype that is consciously but is unconsciously biased and we do it because we're not thinking about it. it is kind of baked into our whole life experience. the more diverse, the better, i think the system functions for our -- everyone from judges into
the people in front of judges. susan: after you left the bench in 2001, you spent five years in san jose as an independent police auditor. how is your combined experience on the bench and with the policing system impacted your thinking about the country -- debate the country is having about police reform? ladoris: i spent five years as the independent auditor for san jose. they are the 10th largest city in the u.s. that was an eye-opener. for five years, i interacted with the police department on a daily basis. it really came to understand how police departments function and the kinds of things that need to be done to start to build trust between police and members of the community. san jose has a very ethnically diverse population. when i had that experience, i had a different understanding of
policing. where i am today, given also by the way when i was on the bench for 20 years, there were plenty of police officers who testified in my court and a majority of the cases i presided over. although, not exclusively were criminal cases. where i am today, if my view on police reform is one that is not shared by lots of people. some people think and believe that you know, if we just tweak things. if we give police more training. things will be better. i don't believe that at all. there has to be drastic changes made in policing to get us to a place where all of us can feel safe. by that, i also mean police officers. let me give you a quick example. policing is really all about making traffic stops. that is what most police officers do.
they ride around and if they see there is a problem, and i say problem". if they see a taillight is out. if they see a license plate that is out good or they see a traffic signal somebody put on, that gives them a reason to stop people. particularly, in urban settings but not exclusively, they are not interested in the fact that you did not have your traffic signal on. they are not interested. they want to have a reason to stop you. and then engage into conversation and then search your car. the u.s. supreme court has said that is just fine. you can make these kinds of stops. it doesn't matter that that is not really what you are interested in. i think what has to change is the very nature of policing has to change. we need to take that roll out of policing. they should investigate crimes.
but i think traffic stops are major problems. they disproportionately focus on people of color. and on poor people. there are other things to deal with policing. i think for example, the u.s. supreme court has given what i call " superpowers" to police to do these kinds of things. that is, for example, police are allowed to live. they can lie to people they stop and say they had someone who saw you do x or we have your fingerprints or we have your dna. they are allowed to do that because the supreme court says that is ok. just giving you a kind of surface sense of where i am in policing. the combination of being on the bench, listening to police officers and then working with them, not with them but overseeing them, has led me to conclude that we need to make drastic changes in policing in this country. one other issue i want to bring
up is the use of the word which i think is inaccurate of police unions. they are not unions. in fact, police organizations do not call themselves unions. call themselves associations and brotherhoods or benevolent societies. they don't call themselves unions because they are not. unions are rips of workers who care about all workers. that is not what police organizations are. they are called fraternities. they oppose any reforms. any. i don't care how small, how eggs significant they may seem. they oppose them all. what they do, metaphorically, they circle the wagon and they don't want any kind of oversight or anybody telling them what they should do. i am a strong supporter of unions. i've never cross a picket line and never will. they are not unions and it is a misnomer to call them that. susan: staying with that issue, the supreme court ruled on two
cases regarding qualified immunity for police. they supported it in both instances. that is doing with police officers accused of using excessive force. interestingly, there were unsigned decisions and know the sense. what is your take away? ladoris: we are on the same page. qualified immunity is basically talking about civil protections. civil liability protections. that is if an officer is accused or found to have engaged in excessive force and you want to sue them for imposing that excessive force on you, qualified immunity them ability to do that. you can see but you cannot hold that officer individually liable. qualified immunity was invented by the supreme court. they made it up. since then, it is the law of the land. i have issues with it. i believe that if the supreme court stands by it then it is up
to the states individually to take steps to do away with qualified immunity. it is interesting. there is no other profession that has that doctrine applied to it. you can look at other professions where people can be harmed. whether it is the medical professions, dentistry, there is no qualified immunity but for police, the supreme court has decided that we ought to do that. i think that it is wrong. i hope that people will continue to push to change it. susan: fbi crime support stats says that murder rate rose by 30%. largest increase on record. there are 21,000 murders in 2020 or 6.5 per 100,000 people in the u.s.. aggravated assault rose 12%. we have seen reactions and
cities across the country. what is your estimation of the best way communities should respond to stats like this and the reality of increased crimes in their community? ladoris: one thing happening now is that there has been a reversal. since the murder of george floyd, there have been protests about police reforms and to reduce the presence of police in communities. once these statistics came out, and many cities, many communities, there has been a 180 where people say nope, we want to increase funding for police. we need more police because these crime rates are going up. i understand that. i get it. it is not for me to say to a particular community that you are wrong. i will at -- never say that. we got to pull back and think why these crime rates are rising.
crime rates don't rise in areas where people are comfortable. where people are able to basically -- their living standards are such that they can pay their rents or mortgages. they feel good about themselves. what is happening in communities is that for a lot of reasons, we have people who are unhappy with their station in life. many people feel they don't have a stake in communities anymore. it is not a new thing. it is based a lot on economics and class. and a lot on how police have been acting with respect to people of color, communities of color. there are a lot of things. i don't think there is one solution. we do however, in your question is the answer that we have to turn to communities to make sure
we are listening and understanding what it is they want. there are just a lot of factors. there isn't any one answer. i wish they had the magic tilt to say this is exactly what we should do. there are a lot of things going on here. the first step is to find out why people are so unhappy and why these things are going on and try to address it and any number of ways. susan: you referenced your parents outside of philadelphia. what was your path from ardmore, pennsylvania to stanford law school? ladoris: might story does indeed start with my parents and even before them. on my mother's side, my great-grandparents were enslaved. i am not clear in what state they were enslaved. after emancipation, they ended up in north carolina. that is where my mother and her two siblings were born. not in a hospital because they did not permit black people.
she was born in her house. and was a midwife. they came up in the great migration. in 1939 or 1940 and came up from north carolina to pennsylvania. benchley, lived outside of philadelphia. that is where my sisters and i. i am in the middle. we were born and raised there. my parents made it very clear that they are working class folks. they ran a dry-cleaning does this in a black immunity. we lived just outside what is called the mainline. it is a suburb of philadelphia and it is where there is a lot of old money wealth, the dupont, the heinz family. the black unity in which i was raised provided service for the wealthy community. both of my grandmothers were the help. there were other members in my family. one was a chauffeur. they provided services for folks
of wealth from the mainline. we lived in a community that was a black community but because of the district and county lines were drawn, i went to public schools that were predominantly white and very good schools. there were a handful of black students in the public schools i attended and they were very good schools. my parents expected all of us to do well. we did well. he also made it clear that we were all going to go to college and we did. i ended up going to college in ohio at antioch college which was a terrific experience for me. it has a co-op problem that leaves the campus. the students had to. every three months, you had to leave and be in the world. my experience, the first co-op i had to experience being in college, three years, 17 years old, i went to the mississippi
delta. instead of the tutoring center in meyers ville, mississippi. we are talking 1967. schools were just beginning to get integrated. we are talking from 1954, brown versus the board of education. 1967, black students started going to school with white students. it basically was that my parents, the expectations from them for us was that we would go to college. my sisters went on to graduate school. i ended up coming to california to go to law school here. there had not been any lawyers in my family before but i kind of rolled things out. i majored in spanish. i lived in mexico and studied at a university. i came back from that experience, seeing racial discrimination in mexico where indigenous darker skinned folks were in the bottom and where the
help and were not treated well. i just came back frustrated and decided to change my major and ended up in a theater major in drama and speech which was just right preparation for the law. i say that because i ended up being litigator. i loved being in the courtroom and the object of the litigator is to persuade. persuade jurors or to persuade a judge. just a court trial. theater is all about persuading your audience. when and that becoming a judge, we are talking about theater because i am the producer, director, right? everybody does what i do. if they are told to sit down and they speak when i tell them to and they stop talking when i tell them to stop talking and it is on me to make decisions in many instances. that was really the road i traveled. my sisters traveled in terms of
them also going on to college and graduate school. while school for me was a rule out. math and sciences were not my strong suit. i ended up going into law. la became my passion. it still is my passion. susan: you tell the story about the phone call that changed your life. the suggestion that you can serve as a judge for one day. could you tell that to our audience? ladoris: i would love to. there are some things that some states have that is called a judge pro tem program. it means in latin, for the time. it means judge for a day. it is a way at least in my court, where lawyers would get phone calls. i got a phone call from a judge who said we have a judge pro tem program and i'm trying to make it more diverse and have people of color participate. july to be a judge for a date? can i put you on a list?
my answer was sure. i had never thought about being a judge. i never thought i could wear the black robe. these cases were small claims cases. those elected judge judy cases. people were suing each other and at the time, the maximum limit was $5,000. in california, you can suits somebody in small claims court for up to $10,000. one day, a few months later, i get the phone call. your name has come up on the list. can you be a judge for a date? sure. i go to this court which i was working at the time as an assistant at stanford law school. i get my car. i drive south to a courthouse and they hand me a robe. i get a file and i go into a courtroom. i preside over my first case. i am locked in to tell people what the case is about. i would love for people to read
it. all i can say is after that case, i knew that this is what i wanted to do. i loved wearing a robe and making decisions. this is a bit of a teaser. the case that got me into judging was all about hair. like hair, hair. susan: [laughter] we'll see if that encourages sales if they want to read about the hair story. he also mixed chapters of your own experience and prescriptions from the 20 years of experience for how you might effectively change the system for the better. i want to dig into a few of those. the group of sixes that have to do with selection and training of judges. you suggest there needs to be more clinical training about judging in law school. would you explain? ladoris: sure. thank you for bringing this up. the next to last chapter is called " the fix." i propose 10 ways we can make our legal system better. i believe it is broken in many
ways. if you think about judging, judges come from lawyers. you had to have been a lawyer before you can be a judge. in california, you must be a lawyer for 10 years to then become a judge. if the pool from which lawyers come from, they are trained in law school. not one law school in the country has any kind of a program or training for judging. which, i think is highly unusual. if you look in germany, they have training specifically if you want to be a judge. that is your role. if you decide you want to go that route, that is the training. in this country, there is none. literally, you can be a lawyer and practice law for tens -- 10 years. it means you are not in court, hardly at all. you get to decide if you want to be a judge. you can apply or you can run for
a seat depending on what is available and you can be a judge and be handed a robe and here you are, going to court and you will preside over family court and decides who gets custody of a kid. all your legal career, all you have done is handle contracts. i think that is appalling. i think the first set of ability to trained should start in law school. we should expose people, students who are thinking that i might want to be a judge someday to do that. i proposed in the fix that there should be clinical training in and by clinical, i mean hands-on. it is not a lecture. you are actually doing judging. i don't just make this up. i actually did it. in my last year on the bench, i had this idea that i went to a nearby law school and i interested students and said would you like to put -- preside
over small claims cases. i set second share with them. i got permission from litigants and the students actually, individually presided over a case. it was an eye-opening experience for them. they learned a lot. i can see the changes happening with the students who want to listen and make decisions about people's lives. that is what i suggest in the book. i hope law schools will pick up on this and we can start a movement. and bring judging to law schools. do you happen -- susan: do you happen to know -- susan: do you happen to know if they became judges? ladoris: it is too soon to tell. when i created the program, it was at 2001 or the end of 2000. 10 years out, some of them might. i haven't followed up on them.
if i say around 2000, 2012-2013. he gave me a great idea to follow up and find out if they wear. at this point, i don't know if they have. susan: he referenced the election of judges. explain to leaders that the -- explained to our audience that electing them was the norm before hand but you said it does not work for the citizenry today. why not? ladoris: judicial elections are controlled by special interest groups who have a lot of money. they are all about campaigning, all about raising money, all about getting tv ads. radio ads and it all takes money. what has happened with the around our states. there is a federal system where
we have a court with nine judges and then we have our state court judges and local once focused on trial judges but there are about 30,000 trial court judges and then there are appellate judges who review decisions that judges make and states have their own supreme court's which are the ultimate decider's except in new york, is called the court of appeal and the spin courts are your trial courts. there are races now, very partisan races for state supreme court seats. that means people who want to be on the supreme court's aligned themselves and you see they become very political. they are either conservatives supporting them, liberals supporting other candidates and the money starts to pour in. you have these people running for the seats, making promises about what they will or will not
do. they are acting like politicians. judges are not politicians. that line has become blurred. it is very dangerous. if you look at our moxie, we have three pillars. we have legislative executives and the judicial branch. the judicial branch is independent. it cannot be and must not be political. that is what is happening now. my concern is with these judicial elections, they become politicized. people with the most money when. that is not what i believe people who thought about crating a judiciary in this country. back in the day, i didn't think it would happen. i think we need to pull back. i don't believe in or support these judicial elections and believe me, i know of what i speak. i write in the speak that i was elected. at first, i was elected and i
wanted to move up and i ran and i won. that doesn't mean it was the best system. there should be mayor at commissions that should evaluate judges. or evaluate candidates that want to be judges and people who want to be judges, they should have trials. they should have auditions. they should be required to preside over small claims cases. they ought to be scrutinized in that fashion. that is not what is done today at all. susan: what about judicial accountability? you have two proposals. more transparent disciplinary proceedings and a limit to judicial recalls. let me start with the recalls. he reference earlier being involved in the campaign to recall the california judge aaron persky. we have a clip of him in 2018. at a rally during that recall
campaign. i would like to have you explain what your concern is over judicial recall. >> someday, you may be on the right side of the law and the wrong side of public opinion. when you step into a courtroom before a judge, you will expect, you will reflect and demand a judge who will follow the rule of law. who will tune out public opinion because they must. they must to preserve our system of justice. susan: i don't know if we should dwell on the particulars of the case so much as a concern about the recall process. ladoris: the recall, specifically around him was all about judicial independence. that is what it is all about. two other people, people who wanted him outward framing it like oh, this is a bad judge and we don't like decisions he made. that was all a smokescreen.
what was really happening was a attack on -- an attack on judicial independence. they made a lawful decision that was controversial in sentencing brock turner. some people did not like it. it was lawful. as a result of that, the judge was recalled. during that campaign, i spoke out because they could not speak out because the rules at the time were that if there was a pending case, a judge could not talk about it ever. there had to be surrogates. i ended up being one of the surrogates and the main one in promoting his cause which was to say he did nothing wrong. you might disagree with it but is not how our judiciaries should function in that they don't like what a judge said or how a judge ruled, albeit lawfully. the judge should go. that is not an independent judiciary. we can hold judges accountable. i am not opposed to recalls at
all. i opposed recalls that say i don't like what the judge did and want them thrown out but it was lawful. i think recalls are fine. if a judge has engaged in malfeasance. if they have committed a crime, engaged in misconduct, the public should have a right to all the judge accountable and not wait and do a recall. there are at least two states that have that ruled that state judicial recalls can only happen for those reasons and not when a judge does something lawful or where a judge has exercised their discretion and then something -- bend something that is lawful. that should be the role in every state and federal judges can never be recalled. they are appointed for life and they can never be recalled. this is only applied within and among the states. judges can be held accountable without recalls.
our decisions can be appealed. they are appealed good that is what appellate courts can tell us. they can't reverse our decisions and say we were wrong and that is not good. and when their terms are up, at that time, their tenure at the bench can be reviewed it should be reviewed by commissions and by input bite little get who have appeared in front of those judges to evaluate and say whether or not they should continue on for another term. judges serve for a term of six years. i'm talking about trial court judges. in that time, judges can decide i have had enough i am done. or they can stay on for another term in which case, in california, any lawyer who has been a lawyer for 10 years can run against that judge. your term is up and i want your seat and can run. there are sometimes, where the timing of such is they cannot run because the law said so.
in which case, it is left for the governor to appoint. there are many ways. those are the kind of voice to hold them accountable. i think recalls that allow judges to be removed because of, i don't like what they did. albeit, a lawful decision. that has no place if we want an independent dysuria. susan: turning -- independent judiciary. susan: one of the earliest chapters in your book has to do with juvenile justice system. you write that over time, it has become increasingly punitive. what are the trends you are seeing? ladoris: thank you for raising this issue. juvenile courts were established for juveniles to say they can be redeemed. they can be rehabilitated if they have engaged in some sort of criminal behavior. it was not about punishment. it was about how can we get them on the right track?
over the years, that has changed where the system has become more punitive. the end now really the result of black lives matter and after george floyd's death, people have looked at the criminal legal system and i hesitate to call it a justice system. there's are so many things about it that are not just. the ideas we are working to get there. there are many things in our criminal legal system that we are now looking at. one of them is in the juvenile court system. for example, prosecutors have been very not hesitant at all to try juveniles as adults or to charge gang enhancements, all kinds of things that takes them out of the juvenile system and put them in the adult system. i write in the book that i want
the focus to get back to more away from being punitive and dealing with juveniles. i think with the rare absorption -- exception, there is hope for every kid that comes into the juvenile system. admittedly, there may be some very very rare exception where they are so messed up that there is no hope. it is so destructive. it is just so rare. in my time in the juvenile court for eight few years is i believe in redemption. that doesn't mean oh, let us look the other way and let us be soft on everybody. that is not what i am saying. our primary goal is to look at rehabilitation and redemption. i believe that should be in result court but we got different kinds of behavior that
we have to look at. if we are just talking about juvenile court then yes, we must move away from the direction we have been going in which is to be more punitive and look at redemption and rehabilitation. susan: the set you share is that there are 2700 inmates who were 17 or younger at the time of the crimes who are serving lifetime without parole. brian stevenson speaking after sullivan v florida which had to do with juvenile punishment and whether a non-homicidal offense can be sentenced to life without parole. it us listen. >> to say any child of 13 that you are only fit to die in prison is cruel. we believe that the constitution prohibits that kind of punishment and if the court should enforce that in this case and in the graham case. we are very helpful -- hopeful that we can create a just prudence that the sense of children ration it's -- rationally and appropriately,
some have to be punished and sent to prison but we don't believe any child of 13 should be condemned to die in prison. susan: what did sullivan v florida due to the system? ladoris: as a result of that case and a member, but he was talking about, these are juveniles who who are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for non-homicidal conduct. they did not engage in murder. the court has said you cannot basically agree with brian stevenson. you cannot sentence them to life without possibility of parole for non-homicidal conduct. that is what brian advocated for and that should be the case. what do we have the? we have a system here where judges have the discretion to sentence juveniles tried as adults to life without the possibility of parole.
that they have committed murders. i believe that is a problem. there should not be that discretion. no juvenile should ever be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. today, judges still have that discretion. susan: one of the stories that you tell is about a 16-year-old whose trial was in your court. this has to do with the felony murder rule. you call for a reform of it. what does reform of this role -- as report, 45 states follow the felony murder role. what does it entail? ladoris: felony murder says any person who is engaged in conduct that results in the death of somebody is a sickly as culpable as the person who actually caused the death. to be more specific, the case i described in the book is a 15-year-old girl who was in a
gang but they had no history of violence. what they decided to do was they wanted to leave and go to southern california. they decided to rip off someone they knew, a " friend." still their event and go to california. she was a part of this group. she was not present when they told this person out of the van and ended up stabbing him and killing him and leaving him for dead. she was not there. she was out getting her clothes from her parents house to joint them to run away. she knew they would take the van but she had no notion that anybody would be killed. when she gets back, this guy is dead, they jump in the van and off they go. they are caught shortly thereafter.
everyone, those who were engaged in the stabbing were charred -- charged with murder and tried in adult court she was tried in juvenile court for the murder. she was deemed to be just as culpable as the people who actually did the stabbing. she had no idea that anybody would be killed. she didn't even know that anybody had a knife and yet, under the further -- federal murder role, she could be and was charged with the murder of this young man at her trial was for me in juvenile court. juvenile courts, there is no jury. it is just me presiding over the case. in the book, i write about my decision in the case. it is my view that it should be abolished. that young girl was not a murderer. and yet, because of the felony murder were rule labeled her as
such. she is not a murderer. some states, california is one of them, recently said that we need to stop that. we will only look at those actually engaged in the murder, charge them with that and not use the felony murder role. that should be the case throughout the country. susan: speaking of trials by juries, there is another big trial in the news right now. jury selection is underway for the trial. would you explain more? ladoris: i would give you one example. juries are just so important. if we are going to have a system that works for everyone. i believe in our jury system. i have a chapter in the book about juries. and about things like jury selection and jury compensation. i actually make some recommendations where jurors are
dramatically and drastically underpaid. for example, and california, jurors are paid $15 a day to do an amazing civic duty. i think that is reprehensible and we need to change that. as we get to the actual trials, one of the main things happening in the ahmaud arbery case right now is jury selection. one of the key things in jury selection are things called proctor he challenges. each side, prosecution and defense, i'm just talking about criminal cases because they are used in civil cases where people are suing each other. let me get back to criminal cases. in the ahmaud arbery case, each side is entitled to a certain number of correct three -- per factory -- i don't want them on the jury and you can say i can request them to be dismissed and you don't have to give a reason.
you get a certain number of them. if it turns out for example that it has happened quite a bit around trials in the country. if they're using these challenges to dismiss only people of color, let's just say black people. finally, the defense can say to the judge, judge think there is a problem here. the prosecutor has dismissed three black jurors and there's only a handful of them in the pool. that is racism. that prosecutor should be held to explain why. at that point, the judge is required to ask what is your using -- reason for using that challenge? that is when a reason should be given. if the prosecutor gives a race neutral answer, it is up to the
judge to decide if that is legitimate or not that is generally what happens. they will get a " race neutral" answer. it would say something like they didn't give me good eye contact or they looked angry. maybe he doesn't like me. that is why. race neutral. angry. or, they wore some jeans today and had a t-shirt it looked like maybe he wasn't really respectful of the process. race neutral. it is up to the judge to decide that. is that legitimate or not? in most instances, judges rubberstamp whatever is eight race neutral response is. there are problems with that. if you can give any kind of an answer and still get rid of only one group of jurors that say all black jurors or or -- all latinx
jurors, there is a problem. they're looking at these challenges and saying that should not work or they are saying you can have them but judges need to be more proactive and dig deeper into finding out really, what is going on and making decisions about whether in fact that his race neutral. i want to note that thurgood marshall was on the supreme court said that he was quite clear. they are awful. they really just promote racism in trials and they should be done away with entirely. people are now looking at this issue. in california, recently, the governor signed a racial justice act which puts the burden on judges to really look at these issues and hold hearings. stop the trial and hold hearings to determine what is going on when let's say, the defense says there is a pattern of using
these challenges to get rid of a certain group or class of people. susan: one other big topic to put before you. that is on the prison system. you describe it as mass incarceration mass. u.s. sentencing project reports there are 2 million people in the resins and jail which is a 500 percent increase over the last 40 years. 20 of those years, you served as a judge. what is happening in the u.s.? ladoris: i think mass incarceration, which is disproportionately impacted people of color, is the result of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. also known as three strikes laws. these are laws that do not give any discretion to judges and a sickly, give all the power to prosecutors. prosecutors decide whether or not to charge people with crimes. they can decide what type of charges to bring.
they can decide we can charge you with a crime where it is a strike meaning if you are convicted of this, the judges will have no discretion. you will go to prison for 25 years to life. these mandatory minimum sentences are basically take all the authority away from judges and how to sentence people. basically, sentencing is subjective. judges, we are told to look at certain rules. look at the victim. look what happened to the victim here. if there is a victim in a case. their victimless crimes, also look at the defendant. do they have a prior criminal history? does the defendant -- what kind of upbringing that they have? how remorseful are that? there are all these individual factors we are to look at as judges when we sentence.
mandatory minimum sentencing laws take away that discretion. they just pay all defendants -- paint them with the same brush. it doesn't matter what the background is. they going amount for this amount of time. when it was in its heyday in california, that would be in the late 90's. there are three strikes laws in many other states. there were -- all the power was taken away from judges. once jurors -- juries or defendants played -- let's guilty, they went to jail. it is up to prosecutors to use these were disproportionately used against people of color and poor people. as a result, you have people serving long time and sometimes life sentences in prison for crimes that involve thrift -- theft or drudge -- drugs.
in its heyday in california, the vast majority of defendants serving under the three strikes law, serving life sentences were therefore nonserious, nonviolent crimes. we end up now with this mess incarceration due to mandatory minimum sentences. the reform of these criminal laws, what we are seeing is a trend moving away from these mandatory minimums. i hope that that continues. my concern is that as crime rates go up, you may see a return to this. i know that that does not solve the problem. in fact, studies have been done where states that did not have mandatory minimums and those that did, there was no difference really in crime rates. these mandatory minimums really don't do anything to bring down crime rates in these various states. in -- susan: you write in your book