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DUI courts violate equality ruling

DUI courts violate equality ruling

'Separate but equal' concept was tossed out 50 years ago

Andrew Thomas
My Turn
Mar. 13, 2006 12:00 AM

More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brown vs. Board of Education that separate-but-equal public institutions violate our Constitution. Today, ironically, it is the courts themselves that are violating this principle.

Maricopa County Superior Court has created what it calls special DUI courts to provide "therapy" to Spanish-speaking and Native American DUI felons.

Maricopa County's race-based DUI courts are a very dangerous precedent. They establish the separate-but-equal doctrine in Arizona's criminal justice system. I have filed suit in federal court to challenge these practices, as they plainly violate basic civil rights.

Court administrators have justified these practices as essential to provide an alternative to "the dominant culture, male Caucasians."

Yet even throughout our nation's long and tragic history of segregation and Jim Crow, Southern governments never established separate courts based on race. The Rev. Oscar Tillman, president of the Maricopa County NAACP, recently stood with me and asked that these courts be disbanded.

Interpreters are provided to all criminal defendants who don't speak English. So why create segregated courts?

Court administrators claim these courts are necessary for "public safety," as criminal offenders in race-based courts supposedly enjoy a lower recidivism rate than do offenders in non-racial courts.

Are Spanish-speaking offenders really less likely to commit another felony because their court proceedings are in Spanish instead of English? The courts certainly haven't proved this.

Attorney Kathleen Carey

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