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mailmanThe Tompkins County District Attorney's Office and the Tompkins County Assigned Counsel Program (which provides assistance to persons in criminal and family court matters) join together with many local lawyers to deplore the recent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (and the murders of many African-American people before him), made all the worse because it was perpetrated by a person who was charged with even-handed enforcement.

We recognize it is unjust to require anyone to live in constant fear that they will be disrespected, mistreated or even killed simply because of how they appear to or are perceived by others. We understand those living with such daily fear are left bearing a constant weight that gnaws at their bodies and saps their souls. We recognize such events and fears are not things that happen elsewhere but that there are numerous incidents of systemic and implicit racism and bias that occur here in Tompkins County.

As lawyers, we are often called on to defend persons even in seemingly indefensible situations. Lawyer ethical rules establish that everyone deserves a competent, zealous defense. Nonetheless, we must especially acknowledge that Black Lives Matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. We, as lawyers, must remember to take our turns speaking for all the silenced or voiceless. Allowing the pain of racism and bias to continue lessens all of us since, as Dr. King taught from the Birmingham Jail "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

As lawyers who practice within the civil and criminal justice system we recognize we have played a role in allowing systemic and implicit racism and bias to exist in our justice systems and we have a responsibility to play a role to eliminate such racism and bias. We recommend our colleagues find practical ways to counter that racism and bias each day with our clients, with African-American and other communities of color, with the LGBTQ+ community and, indeed, with any one suffering from bias and/or prejudice until we live in a United States where all people are not just created equal, but treated equally.

Lance Salisbury
- Supervising Attorney, Tompkins County Assigned Counsel Program
Matthew Van Houten
- Tompkins County District Attorney
Liam G.B. Murphy
- Author

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