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Judicial candidates tackle race relations in latest forum

LILBURN -- A Tuesday evening forum with Gwinnett's 12 judicial candidates was heavy on race issues, with panelists honing in on what judges can do to help minority residents feel more comfortable with the court system.

Panelists asked superior, state and probate court candidates in the July 31 election a number of questions regarding minorities and minority relations during Tuesday's forum at Berkmar High School. Responses to questions about fairness, communication and diversity in the legal system were particularly insightful from the five candidates for Superior Court, which handles Gwinnett's felony criminal cases.

Superior Court candidate Robert D. Walker Jr., who is black, said it's time for those within the system to recognize its faults.

"It's not a perfect system, it still needs a lot of work," Walker said. "(Judges have to) use the discretion in the right way to balance the inequities that come before them day-in and day-out."

"The only way to fix it is to admit it's there, to recognize it and to try to correct it," he said.

Similarly, candidate Kathy Schrader advocated for improved communication to Gwinnett's burgeoning Hispanic and Asian communities.

"Access to information and collaboration among the systems and the community are what's necessary to make the other communities that we're talking about here feel more included, to feel like they're empowered to use the systems that are here to serve them," Schrader said. "Even if the courts think that we're doing a good job, we are not."

Like several of his opponents, Christopher McClurg emphasized the need for improved translation services, saying that "justice is difficult enough to administer when there is no language barrier."

McClurg said that, if he was elected, minority defendants would "get the due process that they deserve under the Constitution, so help me God."

Candidate Giles D. Sexton said it would be important to "try to identify the people that need help" before they get to the courtroom.

"There would be nothing wrong with having a Korean or Spanish interpreter on standby," he said.

Tracey Mason Blasi, a Gwinnett native, said justice should be blind of color, and a Superior Court judge should reflect that.

"I think we all agree that regardless of what we see in the courts, justice should always be administered fairly and impartially to each individual that comes into court," she said. "That's what I would do in the courtroom because that's what I've done all my life."

Tuesday's forum will be aired at 8 p.m. Friday on TVgwinnett.

Comments

Kat 1 year, 9 months ago

I am all for treating everyone fairly regardless of their race or religion. However, if you are living here learn to speak english. We already utilize translators and the language line at a great cost to the tax payers of Gwinnett. From what I see at the court houses, the county already bends over backwards to assist those that do not speak english. People residing in the USA have a personal responsibility to learn english. I know that there are places that offer classes at no charge. I have encountered parents that have lived here for many years show up with their child, who speaks english and the parent does not. Fortunately the group I work with has a spanish speaking person that translates. But, how do these parents communicate with the schools or other organizations that are trying to work with their child? If the parent or parent(s) would put forth the effort to learn english that wouldn't be an issue. If you don't speak english and there is only your child to translate, you will not know what is really going on with your child. Right now I wouldn't vote for any of you as I view your answers as political correctness.

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dan 1 year, 9 months ago

The government has no right to tell people to learn a certain language in order to live here.

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Kat 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm not talking about the government telling or mandating anyone learn english. If I decided to move to a foreign country I would learn the language. I wouldn't expect the country to provide a translator. It's about personal responsibility.

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure they do. Immigrants entering the country legally must learn some elementary English for the citizenship test. Also, if someone commits a crime, they can be sentenced to do any number of things they may not want to do; such as jail, fines, community service, anger classes, DUI school, etc. Nothing wrong in requiring as part of a sentence for an ESOL course. Perhaps learning some basic Engligh will make assimilation easier, interpreting road signs safer, and save taxpayers the costs of court interpreters.

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

the majority are NOT legal. All they need to learn is to say yes, no.

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Motor76 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes ,and the government can declare English as the official language of the county, city, state, whatever. I say learn the language, assimilate and stop stomping on a culture that has been here for over 200 years, and do it legally.

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

No Dan, but the voters do. I do not want to pay for outside help in defending a person who committed a crime that can't even speak the English language. It is their responsibility if they want to come here. The door swings both ways.

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

(1) Walker comment: I don't want a judge like you, one that gives out sentences based on things other than the law, like feelings, past lives, etc. I want a judge who will sentence according to the VICTIM of a crime. No to you buddy. (2)Kathy Schrader comment: "advocated for improved communication to Gwinnett's burgeoning Hispanic and Asian communities." If immigrants were made to learn the American custom and language, like other countries, then we wouldn't have to be paying for "help" for these people. You come to another country and you do NOT get free help when you have no desire to learn the American ways and language. Your comment gets a no vote as well. You are catering to these groups for votes. (3)Christopher McClurg comment: "emphasized the need for improved translation services," You to are commenting to get votes from these groups. My first comment still stands. The defendent should pay or find free help on their own, not paid for by taxpayers. We didn't ask these people to come to this country!! no vote. (4)Giles D. Sexton comment: "There would be nothing wrong with having a Korean or Spanish interpreter on standby." (at our expense of course). a no vote. (5)Tracey Mason Blasi comment: You stayed "on the fence" with your comment. So far you get my vote for not costing the taxpayer for interpreters. Defendents should buy their own help. Maybe judges should know 3 languages to qualify.

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ccmcclurg 1 year, 9 months ago

While I agree that those living here should take personal responsibility for learning English, and many do, the Constitution requires a level of due process that obviously requires that a defendant understand the charges against him, has an attorney who can discuss his case and assist in preparation of his case, understand witnesses, be able to testify in his own behalf (should he desire to waive his 5th Amend. right), etc. The reality is that many do not speak or understand English. Judges don't allow people in the Country illegally, they do not arrest people, they do not prosecute people, and they do not defend people. THEY DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION FOR ALL PEOPLE. This means providing due process, including the opportunity to be heard. What would be the alternative to providing translation services? Not hear the cases, have every defendant file a habeas action, languish in local jails costing hundreds of millions, and providing a defendant with the world's greatest appellate issue? We all want everybody to pay their fair share. My response was simply a recognition that translation services are required under the Constitution. I personally agree with retiring Judge Bob Mock, who provides defendant's with adequate counsel, investigative funds, and competent translators; and, if convicted, requires the defendant to repay the cost of such services as a condition of their sentence/probation. www.mcclurgforjudge.com>

kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

The Constitution does NOT require taxpayers to pay for defendent's errors. Original immigrants learned the English language when they came here. Americans didn't force these people to come here. They did that on their own. They should figure out how to defend themselves. I have to.

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tommy 1 year, 9 months ago

Wrong, Kevin.

See Ling v. Georgia and The Court Interpreter's Act, USC § 1827.

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

AMEN! Unfortunately our judicial candidates have sunk into the muck of political correctness. The only answer a judicial candidate should give about handling cases them come before them, " I will handle each case fairly, based upon the facts and the law that applies to those facts."

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 9 months ago

sigh...

we simply can't be everything to all people...

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Rico 1 year, 9 months ago

Stay out of the courtroom and you have nothing to worry about.

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toby 1 year, 9 months ago

Follow the laws. Don't make up laws. Just follow the laws all ready written. And if they can't speak english, throw em in jail until they figure it out. It won't take long.

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dawgsntennis 1 year, 9 months ago

No, we can't be everything to all people.

But when 32 percent out 'minority-majority' county will either need a translator for themselves or for their family members, we need to take an honest look at our society before uttering some political lines. Every Gwinnettian has a constitutional right to be treated fairly. That means reaching a reasonable understanding of the decisions they make in the court. People in wheelchairs have the right to get to the courthouse, thus the ramp. No, they didn't choose to be disabled, but what makes you so confident about your ability to learn another language? How do you define English proficiency anyway? If you move to another country for a better life and pick up enough of the language to run a small business and earn a living, is that still insufficient? Legally demanding that they learn enough language to argue with you on this forum is impractical but also unconstitutional. The Constitution does not choose a language. Well, It was understood to be English, you say? Yeah, of course "every man" was equally well understood to be White and male. Let's face it. Asians and Hispanics are part of Gwinnett as much as Italian and Mexican food is part of American cuisine. Lastly, our county only provides free translators for cases facing possible jail time. These immigrants are 'AMERICA,' too! Embrace it, or spend your life complaining.

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Kat 1 year, 9 months ago

I define english proficiency as being able to read street signs, place a 911 call for help and have the ability to go about your life in the USA without the need for a translator. In fact learning english should be on your to do list once you arrive here. If you come here illegally at least remain under the radar by learning english. No one is talking about race here. There are people in Gwinnett from countries too numerous to mention. Don't know why you chose to single out asians and hispanics.

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

You make your own defense. The public doesn't have any obligation to pay for your defense problems.

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 9 months ago

ccmcclurg and dawgsntennis positions on translators is in contrast to a May 2011 Georgia Supreme Court directive. That directive refers to a US Justice department reinterpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that everybody even remotely associated with a legal case must be provided an interprter without cost, and cannot recover that cost. If someone in court is directed to mediation, a free interpreter must be provided; a free, seperate interpreter must be provided to parents of a juvenile, a free interpreter to all parties even in civil cases. True, it is a tortured rereading of that Act, but right now it is the law of the land, according to the Georgia Supreme Court.

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kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

As usual, laws made by lawyers instead of laws protecting taxpayers from incompetants.

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Redneckiller 1 year, 8 months ago

Typical Redneckery. Always worried about what language other people are speaking instead of trying to perfect the one they speak. When you hear someone speaking another language do you think they are talking about you? Do you know the visa status of every single foreigner you see? You do realize that people visit this country often with no intention whatsoever of ever learning any english? Maybe if you left the country once in awhile you would realize that most people from other countries speak multiple languages unlike you and im sure that their english is better than your spanish or cantonese.

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