Our Office's Commitment to Racial Justice

Watching George Floyd’s murder in late May 2020 —hearing a terrified human being beg for his life before falling silent beneath the weight of a uniformed knee—the callous brutality was plain. Confronted by the stark reality of his murder and understanding that Derek Chauvin’s knee was only one of many knees, fists, batons, and bullets that have brutalized Black bodies and stolen Black lives, the nation seemed ready to finally say “enough.” Chants that “Black lives matter” rang out through streets in large cities and small towns alike; politicians discussed meaningful reform to the criminal legal system; and for a moment we held our breath and hoped that Gianna Floyd was right to exclaim: “my daddy changed the world!” Many hoped that we might finally be ready to look honestly at the violence and terror that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face every single day, and address the institutional racism embedded so deeply in our country.

But entrenched racism does not give up easily. Waves of backlash against calls for racial justice have since swelled across the country. We must push back. We must be vigilant. We must insist upon changing the world.

While Seattle, Tacoma, and many other communities within the Western District of Washington consider themselves progressive on issues related to racial justice, we have no reason to be complacent. Deep and persistent racial injustice has plagued us for decades. See our Race and Equity page for examples.

This nation has the power to remedy racial injustice—the question is whether we will summon the courage and conviction necessary to create meaningful change. At the Federal Public Defender, we commit ourselves to continuing to fight alongside our clients with courage and tenacity. We commit ourselves to continue to look internally for ways we can make our practice more equitable, impactful, and compassionate.

While we will never be deterred from fighting hard for our clients each and every day, we are also clear-eyed about the limits of individual-case advocacy to bring about systemic change. We call upon the United States Attorney’s Office and the Court, both of which have immense discretion and power to effect change, to join us in this open and honest introspection, and bring their power to bear through concrete actions addressing the obvious racial bias in our criminal legal system.