To The Editor:
In a recent Connecticut Law Tribune article concerning diversity within the Division of Criminal Justice (“More Minority Prosecutors Sought,” Aug. 6, page 1), state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor was quoted as stating that, during Justice Peter T. Zarella’s tenure as chairperson of the Criminal Justice Commission, “virtually no African American or Latino prosecutors were hired.” Rep. Lawlor went on to observe that diversity within the division was “almost unheard of” as recently as the 1980s, and that it is now important to look at the percentage of new appointments who are minorities.
I wholeheartedly agree that the efforts of the Criminal Justice Commission in achieving greater diversity must be gauged upon the number of minorities hired in recent years. Contrary to the suggestion in the article, however, significant progress in this regard was made during Justice Zarella’s term as commission chairman.
A review of pertinent records reveals that, while Justice Zarella chaired the commission, there were 43 new hires, eight of whom were minorities. Thus, during Justice Zarella’s tenure, nearly 19 percent of those new hires were minorities, a number that, in percentage terms, is far greater than the historic percentage of minority prosecutors in the Division of Criminal Justice.
In addition, under Justice Zarella’s leadership, in early 2005, the commission began planning a meeting of the State’s Attorneys for the dual purpose of focusing attention on the need for diversity among the ranks of state prosecutors and identifying ways to achieve that objective. That meeting, which was held in October 2005, was attended by all of the State’s Attorneys, and also included, among others, three African American judges who formerly had been state prosecutors. The meeting accomplished its goal of highlighting diversity as a critical priority of both the commission and the State’s Attorneys, and it has served as a catalyst for the ongoing, collaborative effort to increase diversity within the Division of Criminal Justice.
In short, we continue to reap the benefits of that meeting as we redouble our efforts-commenced under the leadership of then Chairperson Zarella-to achieve a diverse corps of state prosecutors.
Justice Richard N. Palmer
Connecticut Supreme Court
Editor’s note: Justice Palmer is the Criminal Justice Commission’s current chairman.