In what is turning out to be an utterly radical move, the Washington State Supreme Court has issued a ruling requiring judges to order a retrial if one of the parties in the case accuses his opponent’s lawyers of any sort of racial stereotyping.
The ruling stated that when one party claims racial bias after a verdict has been rendered, the trial court must hold a hearing on a new trial motion if the proponent can prove that an objective observer could view race as a factor in the verdict.
The ruling added that the party seeking to preserve the initial verdict must bear the burden of proving that race was not a factor.
“If that burden is not met, the court must conclude that substantial justice has not been done and order a new trial,” the court wrote in the ruling.
Not the craziest part. The judge must hold a hearing at which it is the accused lawyer's burden to demonstrate that he is not racist. https://t.co/tE2sUUdmIT
— Cameron Atkinson (@camlatkinson) December 22, 2022
The new ruling is making lawyers and legal scholars uneasy. They are arguing that the decision undermines the bedrock principles of the American justice system, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
“I don’t know how anyone could prove this negative,” said New York City defense attorney Scott Greenfield while referring to the burden the verdict places on the accused to show that racial bias did not play any role during the proceedings.
Greenfield added that the ruling completely negates the “entirety of American jurisprudence.”
Samantha Harris, who is a First Amendment attorney in Philadelphia, is one of the legal experts concerned about the ruling.
“Obviously, it’s important that jury verdicts not be tainted by racial bias,” Harris stated. “But if you throw every objective measure and conventional burden of proof out the window, you’re essentially left with the Salem racial witch trials.”
Harris and Greenfield agreed that the new ruling could make it almost impossible to defend against civil suits from minority plaintiffs.
Professor David Bernstein from George Mason University described the ruling as “batshit crazy.” Bernstein argued the ruling also plays on the stereotype of all white people being prejudiced.
Bernstein suggested that the ruling could prevent attorneys from implying that an Italian defendant is part of the mafia or that a white defendant discriminated against minority employees since the two arguments are forms of stereotyping.