Survey Shows Discrimination In Rhode Island's Legal System

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A survey among members of the Rhode Island Bar Association found discrimination in the state's legal system, with nearly half of the survey’s participants saying they witnessed or experienced discrimination in the workplace and in state courts.

Discrimination — including racism, sexism, homophobia and bias because of a disability — was encountered by 47% of the more than 300 members of the bar association’s 5,000-plus members who responded, The Providence Journal reported.

Lawyers in underrepresented groups said they experienced roadblocks in their professional careers, citing different treatment based on their gender, race, sexual orientation and disability, as well as lower pay and fewer promotions.

The Rhode Island Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which conducted the survey, recommended that the bar association and the state Supreme Court mandate education courses focusing on anti-racism training and emphasizing the importance of including minority lawyers in leadership positions. The task force was created in 2020 after national and local calls to promote a more fair and equal justice system.

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Supreme Court said the survey results are currently under review, and that The Committee on Racial and Ethnic Fairness has a meeting with the bar association leadership later this month.