Greetings from Terrance J. Evans
It is an honor and a privilege to be the Chair of the Litigation Section of the California Lawyers Association during one of the most consequential moments in American history. There are three major challenges facing the legal community and, more broadly, our society. First, we are living through the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the worst global pandemic in the past 100 years. Second, we are facing the most devastating economic crisis to hit the United States since the Great Depression. Third, we are living in a critical moment in the struggle for racial justice, civil rights, diversity, and inclusion. The way that we respond to these challenges could result in life or death consequences that could last for generations.
The unlawful killings of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Terence Crutcher, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, and Elijah McClain have galvanized people throughout the United States and across the globe in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Notably, the video of George Floyd being suffocated under the knee of a police officer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while begging for his life, and frantically stating that he could not breathe at least 28 times inspired calls for racial justice and protests throughout the United States and around the world. Yet, notwithstanding all of the public statements of condemnation, and the proliferation of #BlackLivesMatter hashtags and t-shirts, not much has changed. Numerous unarmed Black people have been executed by law enforcement since George Floyd’s death, and, most recently, none of the police officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death were charged with her murder following a historic $12 million wrongful death settlement.
For many Black people, including myself, the fight for racial justice is personal. Notwithstanding my Ivy League pedigree or my success as a partner at one of the largest law firms in the United States, I have been subjected to racial profiling and overaggressive policing on several occasions.
For example, I have been stopped by the police numerous times simply because I am a Black man driving a nice car, and the police have a difficult time believing that I am the legal owner. I have encountered several opposing counsel who had a difficult time accepting that I am the lead attorney on a particular matter (or an attorney at all). I have lost count of how many times I’ve been asked, “Are you a REAL lawyer?” “Did you go to law school?” “Did you pass the bar exam?”
I have been refused service at restaurants and department stores because I am Black, and the store employees or owners did not believe that I could afford what they were selling. Being a successful attorney at a global law firm has not insulated me from racism or discrimination. Anti-Black racism is alive and well in 2020. Sadly, it does not matter how well educated you are, how well dressed you are, how much money you make, how much success you achieve, you will still be racially profiled and discriminated against in the United States if you have Black skin like mine.
Notwithstanding California’s racist past and present, I am optimistic about the future and the role that the Litigation Section will play in that future. I am the co-cofounder and one of the co-chairs of the California Lawyers Association’s Racial Justice Committee (the “RJC”) along with Adrieannette Ciccone, Leif Dautch, Marjaneh Maroufi, and Ellen Miller. The RJC was actually born in the Litigation Section in March of 2020 before becoming a CLA-wide committee.
In partnership with the Litigation Section, the RJC has sponsored, co-sponsored and/or participated in more than 50 racial justice, diversity, and civil rights programs this year. The video recordings of many of these programs are available on the CLA website. I encourage you to check them out. Additionally, the RJC and the Litigation Section have partnered with affinity bar associations throughout California and across the United States to promote racial justice, diversity, and inclusion in the legal profession. Notably, the Litigation Section recently inducted famed civil rights attorney John Burris into the prestigious Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame.
As we move forward, I intend to strengthen the Litigation Section’s outreach to affinity bar associations, women lawyers, Black lawyers, Hispanic/Latinx lawyers, Asian lawyers, Native American lawyers, other lawyers of color, LGBTQ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities. Together, we are stronger and more effective advocates and/or representatives for our clients and the communities that we serve. I also intend to strengthen our outreach to members of the judiciary and the legislature.
Please join me in my lifelong journey to pursue racial justice, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, diversity, and inclusion. We are stronger together.
Terrance J. Evans
Chair of the Litigation Section of the California Lawyers Association