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Published April 06, 2011, 10:35 PM

Committee Looking For Minority Bias In North Dakota Courts

A supreme court committee wants to find out if there is bias towards minorities in the North Dakota court system, or if it is just a perception.

A supreme court committee wants to find out if there is bias towards minorities in the North Dakota court system, or if it is just a perception.

This Supreme Court sub committee needs to answer a big question.

"What we're trying to establish is whether or not ethnic bias exists in the court systems," Troy Morley, a commission member.

The Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias has been gathering information for over a year by taking public input and surveys.

One important finding has to do with people's perception of the legal system.

"I think it is common for people to feel victimized for something other than the actual charges," said Jay Knudson, an attorney.

Initial information might give better insight as to why people feel that way.

It says people minorities are under-represented in court personnel..showing every employment category being 98-percent white. On the other side, it is different.

"Native Americans make up five-point-eight percent of the state population, yet they make up 22 percent of the prison population. We're trying to figure out why," said Morley.

The committee will present its final report to the North Dakota chief justice next year.

The goal is to find solutions to help people's perceptions and to solve bias, if it truly exists.

"It should be something at least everyone hears a lecture on. It's something not everyone is educated on," said UND sophomore Kylene Fitzsimmons.

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