Symposium to explore unconscious bias in judicial, educational systems

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jan 5, 2015

Law students gather in the courtyard at the William S. Richardson School of Law.
Law students gather in the courtyard at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Do unconscious racial attitudes and other biases affect decision-making in Hawai‘i's legal and educational systems?  Do unspoken attitudes or stereotypical beliefs have an unfair impact on legal matters that affect people of color?

A day-long symposium in January, organized by the University of Hawai'i Law Review staff at the William S. Richardson School of Law, will explore those and related issues as the event brings together leading national legal scholars.

The symposium, “Exploring Implicit Bias in Hawai‘i," will be held on Friday, January 16, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the UH Law School. It is free and open to the public.

“Implicit biases are the pervasive attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s actions and feelings toward others in an unconscious manner,” explains Law Review Co-Editor-in-Chief Sean Wong ’15.  “In a legal context, the ramifications are quite significant. Studies have shown that even people with an avowed commitment to impartiality – such as judges – are affected by implicit biases developed over the course of a lifetime.”

The gathering's keynote address will be given by University of North Carolina School of Law Professor Robert J. Smith, one of the nation’s leading scholars on these issues. He is co-editor with Richardson Professor Justin D. Levinson of a ground-breaking book, Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law,” and has served as the legal and policy advisor to Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.

Said Richardson Dean Avi Soifer, “At least partially because of the great diversity of Hawai’i and of our Law School, we truly are the nation’s leading Law School in terms of scholarship on these complex yet very important issues. Our students have put together an absolutely first-rate symposium to discuss these matters seriously.”

Richardson Professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, who chairs the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission, will give opening remarks; Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna ’82 will offer the gathering’s closing address.

The exploration of unconscious biases and their impact on the justice and educational systems in Hawai‘i will include three panels on the topics of criminal justice; education and local biases; and affordable housing.

Participating professors from the mainland include L. Song Richardson from the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and Rachel D. Godsil from Seton Hall University School of Law.

Legal scholars, judges and attorneys from Hawai‘i participating in the symposium include:

* Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba (ret.).

* Richardson Associate Dean Ronette M. Kawakami.

* Professor Justin D. Levinson, Director of the Culture and Jury Project.

* Eric K. Yamamoto, the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice.

* David L. Callies, the Benjamin A. Kudo Professor of Law.

* Associate Faculty Specialist Kenneth Lawson.

* Breann Swann Nu‘uhiwa, former fellow of Ka Huli Ao.

* Attorney Tawnee Sakima ’14.

* Attorney Scott Schmidtke ’14.

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