The Commission was formed on January 21, 1988 by Chief Judge Sol Wachtler. The mandate of the Commission was to examine the courtroom treatment of minorities, review the representation of minorities in nonjudicial positions within the courts, and review the selection processes for judges.

The Commission was created after members of the Coalition of Blacks in the Courts met with the Chief Justice in 1987 to discuss both the despair felt by judges, nonjudicial officers and litigants regarding the treatment of Blacks in the courts and the underrepresentation of Blacks within the judiciary and the legal profession.

The Commission held four public hearings throughout New York state. Additionally, the Commission held a series of public meetings in each county with a minority population of at least 10%, met with most judges in the state, met with court administrators, and met with leaders of various bar and community associations.

The Commission conducted an attorney survey. Of the 840 attorneys surveyed, 81% responded. The Commission also conducted a survey of the 1,129 judges in the State. The response rate was 57%.


Judges should review their bail and sentencing decisions to ensure that they are fair and not influenced by racial or ethnic stereotypes.

Sentencing statistics concerning the race of victim, defendant and complainant should be maintained along with case outcome and should be published by the Unified Court System in cooperation with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Judges should exercise heightened scrutiny to ensure that peremptory challenges are not used improperly in the voir dire process.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct should give complaints of racial bias high priority and keep records of its investigations and disposition of charges in a manner permitting analysis of whether there were any patterns of racial or ethnic discrimination.