Is the legal system racist? Depends on who you ask

A bronze statue titled ‘Justice Delayed, Justice Denied’ depicting a justice figure is seen at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Minorities and young people more likely to view the justice system as unfair, new ABA poll finds
  • A majority of Americans would also like Election Day to be a federal holiday

(Reuters) – Opinions on the fairness of the U.S. justice system vary widely by age and race, according to a recent poll by the American Bar Association.

More than half of Americans polled by the ABA in March (52%) agreed or strongly agreed that the justice system has built-in racial biases. But that figure fell to 48% among white respondents and jumped to 75% among black respondents. Among Hispanics, 54% agreed or strongly agreed.

Meanwhile, 63% of respondents aged 18-34 agreed or strongly agreed that racial bias is built into the rules, procedures and practices of the justice system. Only 40% of respondents aged 65 or over agreed or strongly agreed with this.

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The results were similar when the ABA asked whether all individuals are treated equally in the eyes of the law. Only 46% of people aged 18 to 34 agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, compared to 65% of respondents aged 65 and over. And 59% of white respondents agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 29% of black respondents. Hispanics agreed or strongly agreed at the highest rate, 61%.

Perceptions about the fairness of the justice system are one of the key findings of the ABA’s 2022 Annual Civic Literacy Survey, a nationally representative survey of 1,000 Americans on issues surrounding the law and government.

“The people of our country need to be civic-savvy and know their rights and responsibilities,” ABA President Reginald Turner said last week when the survey was released.

The ABA also polled Americans on their feelings about the vote. Among respondents, 38% said their state had enacted laws since 2020 to make it easier to vote, while 21% said their state had made it harder to vote. And 66% said they would support or strongly support a federal holiday on election days.

Respondents also had to answer a series of multiple-choice questions about the United States Constitution and Supreme Court. The majority, 87%, answered correctly that the president is the commander-in-chief of the military under the Constitution. Only 57% correctly identified John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Read more:

U.S. law students to receive anti-bias training after ABA adopts new rule

ABA revises diversity policy for attorney education programs after setback

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Karen Sloane

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at