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Judges See Need for Diversity in Washington Court System

The need for a diverse judiciary was the focus of a panel discussion at Washington State University in Pullman Saturday. On hand were judges and justices from around the state, including Judge Cameron Mitchell of the Benton-Franklin Superior Court, who said minority groups don’t always feel like they’re part of the judicial system.

“They don’t see anyone who looks like them that looks like they might have the same type of experiences that they may have had," Judge Mitchell said. "That is a very intimidating situation. And they feel immediately excluded, rather than included, in the process.”

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez said that a court that needs to hear civil, family law and criminal cases benefits from having people who have background in those areas.

Panelists said the metaphorical walls dividing the judicial system and minorities are weakening with every vote that is cast in state elections.

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James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.