Spokane Racism

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Zero Diversity in Spokane’s Major Law Firms

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The Washington State Bar Association publication Law and Politics (June/July 2003) ran an article entitled “Gaining and Retaining Diversity: How well do law firms keep their promise of a diverse environment?” by Paul Freeman.

The article and graphic were based on a survey of Washington State law firms conducted by the Washington State Latina/o Bar Association, the Loren Miller Bar Association, and the Asian Bar Association of Washington.

Several law firms did not respond, among them Spokane based firms Lukins & Annis, P.S. (35 attorneys); Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport, and Toole, P.S (50 attorneys); and Paine, Hamblen, Coffin, Brooke & Miller, LLC (55 attorneys).

It is not difficult to see why these firms would not have responded to the survey.

A look 5 years later at the websites for these large Spokane-based law firms shows that they have no attorneys of non-European ethnicity whatsoever. (On the WKDT and PHCBM websites you will have to click on the names of the individual attorneys.)

And this despite the presence of a well-known Jesuit law school — Gonzaga — in Spokane.

This non-diverse reality is reflected throughout the Spokane professional, political, educational, and arts communities. While more than one in ten residents of Spokane is of a diverse ethnic background, that reality is not seen in the offices of government, medicine, law, business, education, social work, religion, or virtually anything else in this community.

The consequences in the application of justice are seen in on the streets and in the court room as recently seen in a well-publicized Spokane court case revealing blatantly racist statements by Spokane jurors regarding an attorney of Asian heritage.

The consequences in the emergency room and in doctors’ offices are experienced on a daily basis by patients who do not receive language appropriate services required under the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and other provisions of law. In Spokane these failures to comply with the law happen on a daily and flagrant basis. As a result, adverse outcomes and deaths have occurred), conditions have been misdiagnosed, and much humiliation and abuse has been suffered (as in the death of 9-year-old Rocio Rodriguez, for example.)

The consequences in the class room are that non-English speaking students do not receive notice of extracurricular and enrichment activities and access to musical instruments in their parents’ languages and thus talented and worthy children are excluded from participation. Beyond that, the larger community and society is denied the fruits of their talents and abilities.

Given that most, if not all, of these matters of access, equity, and justice must be adjudicated in the final instance through the legal system, the lack of diversity in the Spokane legal profession, from law school, to law practice, to public service law agencies, to court room has long-lasting repercussions on the lives of people in Spokane and raises fundamental questions of access to justice which should be matters of major concern for everyone involved in civil rights in Spokane and the betterment of our minority communities.

The time for change in Spokane is long since past. Why has change not come?

Could the answer be “entrenched racism”?

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Spokane County Bar Association diversity page

Written by Arroyoribera

February 10, 2008 at 11:21 am