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.