Tuesday, May 15, 2007
440 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4312
Phone: (202) 225-5071
Fax: (202) 225-5683
Dear Kay Granger:
I have received several reports about Tarrant County Judge Brent Keis’ remarks to a black lawyer as being “racially insensitive”. What is most concerning to me is the judge implies that all local GOP think like him.
Before making judgment on this issue, I would like to share my thoughts with you and ask your guidance.
Apparently a black lawyer representing white clients in an insurance claim came before Judge Brent Keis’ court. The judge noted the African origin of the lawyer’s name and then added the strange comment about Africans making better athletes because “the weak ones were thrown overboard”. What am I to assume from this?
Further, in explaining to the clients the risk they would run in bringing litigation, Keis told Nuru Witherspoon’s clients that they could “bet on black” and pursue a trial on their claim, but told them that would be risky because “Tarrant County is made up of Republicans that think like him.”
Some of my African-American GOP friends, as far away as Virginia, have been telling me essentially that their party “never bet on black”.
My question to you, and the other esteemed Republicans representing the great state of Texas, do you concur with Judge Brent Keis?
There is more at stake than simply political party affiliation. Nuru Witherspoon’s clients felt intimidated enough to settle out-of-court because they felt like the courtroom atmosphere was hostile against them, insofar as being represented by a black attorney.
I do not know if the judge’s comments made them feel that they would have been better off by being represented by a white attorney or a GOP attorney. But clearly the effectiveness of their representation was undermined.
Let me say that the ramifications are far-reaching. Does this explain why African-Americans receive harsher sentences in court or smaller lawsuit settlements and why there is a perception of disparity in justice in the courtrooms of Texas? What does GOP has to do with race and influence in the courtroom? Surely, I don't understand.
The reason I ask is because we (Tarrant County Faith-Based Reentry Committee) will meet on Saturday, May 19, 2007 at 10 A.M. at the Servant House Baptist Church, 1400 East Richmond Avenue, in Fort Worth, Texas 76104.
One of the surprise items on the agenda is a resolution rejecting Judge Brent Keis’s comments. I say “surprise” because the role of Tarrant County Faith-Based Reentry Committee has been to focus on removing reentry barriers for ex-offenders. This issue raises the question of the quality of justice in the courtroom as it relates to criminal trials, and not just lawsuits.
Unlike my counterparts, I am not asking for a statement of outrage and repudiation, but a position statement on where you and other GOP leaders stand.