April 2014 Bar Bulletin
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April 2014 Bar Bulletin

Goldmark Award Luncheon: Putting the Justice in the Justice System

By Erica Peterson


From left: Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Liz Thomas, Judge Nicole Gaines, Jeff Robinson, Professor Robert Chang, Justice Steve Gonzalez and Caitlin Davis Carlson.

Dishes chimed, tablecloths rustled, attorneys and judges chatted briskly in the open spaces of the Sheraton's Metropolitan Ballroom. As in any roomful of lawyers, pragmatism filled the air, along with the sense that everyone was a bit short on time. But as the room lights dimmed and eyes turned to the podium, detachment and busy schedules were, for a moment, set aside. It was the beginning of the 28th Annual Goldmark Award Luncheon.

The Goldmark Award honors someone who, like Charles A. Goldmark, works hard to bring more justice to the justice system. Every year, audience members enjoy good company, a delicious meal and the chance to recognize someone in their midst whose hard work benefits vulnerable participants in Washington's justice system.

The Goldmark Luncheon is always a chance for celebration, but this year it offered a triple fete. As Justice Steven Gonzalez, Professor Robert Chang and Judge Nicole Gaines, all members of the Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System, accepted the 2014 Charles A. Goldmark Distinguished Service Award on behalf of the task force, the presentation became a forum for what Judge Gaines called "a difficult, emotional conversation."

It began with stories about bias and the justice system. In one video, a young African-American uncle tried to tell his 4-year-old nephew that he has nothing to fear from the police, but worried that his assurances would prove false. In another, a talented sculptor with disabilities reminisced about his time in an institution and his need for a space of his own to create his art. A young Hispanic man, who grew up in the midst of poverty and gang violence, shared his travails in turning his life around after landing in jail when he was in high school. Each of these individuals struggled in some way when their lives intersected the justice system because they experienced prejudice.

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