At this point, in a virtual setting some people prefer the camera on or camera off. Societal norms ensure microphones are muted when people are not speaking, unmuted to talk, and background distractions are limited. The last two years brought great uncertainty but were also filled with opportunities to learn more about each other: how people communicate, how tech savvy someone is, and how implicit bias affects how people perceive others.
After the formulation of six subcommittees within the EJC, the race was on to implement programs and initiatives to create change throughout the Judiciary. One of the first action items was conducting listening sessions for the public and justice partners on possible bias in the Maryland Rules and when rules are applied with discriminatory or unfair consequences. During the months of June and July 2021, the EJC’s Rules Review Subcommittee held 12 virtual listening sessions covering topics such as but not limited to:
“In the wake of national protests for racial justice around the country in 2020, [then] Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera created the 40-member Equal Justice Committee comprised of members throughout the Judiciary,” said Equal Justice Committee Chair and Court of Special Appeals Judge E. Greg Wells in a recorded video on the EJC web page. He added, “there is an energy within this committee that continues to push the needle forward and deliver results based on community interaction and feedback. One of the best things we can do to make a difference within the Judiciary is listen.” His closing statement in the EJC video says it best, “This work is ongoing, but each of our members are dedicated to fulfilling the Judiciary’s mission of fair, efficient, and effective justice for all.”
domestic violence and protective orders, criminal procedure, divorce, guardianship, and juvenile delinquency and Child in Need of Assistance. In total, over 350 people participated in these listening sessions providing pivotal feedback as to how the Rules of Practice and Procedure can be revised to avoid implicit bias. To participate in these listening sessions, members of the public were required to preregister and were given the opportunity to request spoken language interpreters and auxiliary services. “It is critical to make sure that the Rules of Practice and Procedure operate fairly for everyone who encounters our justice system,” said Rules Review Subcommittee Chair and Court of Special Appeals Judge Daniel Friedman. “It was eye-opening to hear subtle and often unintended ways that the Rules reflect or perpetuate unfair biases and to study the ways that our justice partners and community members suggest improving the Rules to insure fair treatment for everybody.” Listening sessions were only the beginning of the EJC’s ongoing effort to engage with the public. The Community Outreach Subcommittee planned community forums across Maryland by working collaboratively with local community partner organizations. Those organizations helped identify specific forum topics, assisted in
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