What would Lady Justice say?
You know the Lady. She is Justita, a character of Greek mythology who stands, elegant on her shiny pedestal. She wears a blindfold, holds a scale in her left hand, a sword in her right.
Her iconic image is ubiquitous in courtrooms, law schools and other places of jurisprudence. Lady Justice represents the ideals we hold dear in our legal system: balance, the power of reason and fairness.
On Tuesday, voters will choose the Democratic nominee for Cook County State’s Attorney. What would she say about this marquee primary election as it nears the finish line?
For sure, Lady Justice would love the lineup. Three smart, accomplished and passionate women are competing hard for the second largest prosecutors’ office in the nation.
Anita Alvarez is a two-term incumbent who brings 20-plus years as a prosecutor and administrator in the state’s Attorney’s office.
Challenger Kim Foxx has 12 years experience as prosecutor and supervisor in the state’s attorney’s office, along with a stint as chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Donna More once served as an assistant U.S. attorney and state’s attorney; for the last two decades, she has worked in courtrooms on behalf of casino and gaming interests.
Yet The Lady might dismay at the candidates’ final debate, which aired Thursday on WTTW, a slugfest that featured name-calling, bickering and snarling to the finish.
The Lady must surely be in despair. She has watched from her lofty perch as America’s criminal justice system crumbles at her feet. She knows that in 2016 America justice is far from blind, and injustice falls more heavily on people of color and the poor.
The headlines call the roll: Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Ferguson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald and too many more.
All died ghastly deaths, all left behind harrowing questions about the failures of policing, prosecutions and law enforcement. All are symbols of a system that has lost its way, and lost our trust.
Lady Justice might topple from her pedestal if she heard the most troubling statistic to emerge from this campaign. On the trail, Alvarez frequently touted that her office prosecutes 35,000 cases a year.
35,000 cases a year. In Cook County, most involve people of color and the poor.
Those prosecutions leave behind thousands more grieving families, shattered lives, lost opportunities.
Lady Justice might wonder: How much real progress have we made in reducing crime? How committed are we, really, to holistic reforms of our criminal justice system?
Our government represents all of us. Is this the kind of government we want — a government whose major mission is to police, prosecute and punish people of color? Is that justice?
Lady Justice would implore Cook County voters: Before you go to the polls, take a careful, unfiltered look at the candidates. Then vote for the person with the best credentials, sensibilities, personal history and commitment to reform our system, and revive our ideal of fairness, balance and justice.
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