State Law Library's Commitment to Increasing Access to Justice in Texas
June 17, 2020
Equal access to the legal system and access to justice are ideals that are not achievable for many Texans. In particular, Texans of color run into many roadblocks as they navigate the legal system. The high cost of legal representation, bias, and the systemic racism of the criminal justice system make it difficult to find help. Quality, affordable legal resources are scarce, and court staff and legal professionals—including law librarians—serve as gatekeepers to justice.
Our legislative mandate as a state agency is to provide access to legal information for Texas courts, employees of state agencies, and the citizens of Texas. Our goal as a library and an institution that serves the public is to not only fulfill this mandate, but to go above and beyond by equipping Texans across the state with the knowledge and information they need to assert their legal and civil rights. We strive to do this while keeping in mind that race, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, and economic status all play a part in each person’s experience.
As librarians, we believe that knowledge is power. We strive to empower Texans within the legal system by making information of all kinds available, including the expertise of our reference librarians.
In our quest for an equitable justice system we aim to:
- Remove traditional barriers to legal information access: distance, cost, structural and systemic racism.
- Empower Texans by helping them build their knowledge of the law and their rights under it.
- Support under-served, marginalized communities who are disproportionately affected by the legal system by providing them with the information they need to represent themselves and advocate for their loved ones.
- Encourage attorneys to pursue pro bono opportunities by providing them with practice material to work outside their usual areas of law.
Resources on Diversity, Bias, and Racial Disparity
Here are a few resources that are a great start for legal professionals who would like to read more on diversity, bias, and racial disparity.
Aimed at prosecutors, judges, and public defenders, this series of training videos from the American Bar Association takes a look at how implicit bias negatively impacts the legal system.
This toolkit from the Texas Young Lawyers Association provides suggestions for improving diversity within the legal profession through projects, policies, membership, and affiliate relationships.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has put together a collection of resources on racial disparity within the criminal justice system, including journal articles, reports, books, videos, and more.
Practising Law Institute has a collection of online programs for legal professionals interested in learning more about diversity and unconscious bias within the legal community. These videos can be accessed for free by using the discount code KHM0 8AEM1 at checkout.
This collection of journal articles and book chapters from Cambridge University Press offer perspectives on policing and race from different disciplines, including the social sciences, humanities, health, medicine, and the sciences. In addition to the journal articles and book chapters, entire books on the subject will be made available for free for through July 12th.
This post from legal database HeinOnline's blog has information on finding scholarly research on police brutality and racial disparity within the criminal justice system. Please note that you will need a current library account to access HeinOnline, which you can register for on our Get a Library Account page.