Trump Pick Carson: Judges Should be Mindful of Implicit Race Bias


• At hearing, appeals court nominee credits former boss with bias education

• He also distances himself from criticism of Black Lives Matter


Federal appeals court nominee Joel M. Carson III told a Senate committee Feb. 14 that he “categorically rejects racism” and suggested that judges should recognize implicit racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Responding to a question by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) at his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Carson praised the “real leadership role” taken on the issue of implicit bias by Christina Armijo, the former chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

“I absolutely recognize that racism is a problem in this country, and our chief judge was making sure that all the judges in our district were educated on implicit racial bias and that we were on guard for it in our courts,” said Carson, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

That example “is a great one for lots of judges” in the U.S. “to follow, and that is to recognize when there’s a problem” and to “make sure everybody deals with it,” he said.

Carson serves as a part-time magistrate judge for the district court and is a partner at Carson Ryan LLC, Roswell, N.M.

Booker and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) recently expressed concern about Seventh Circuit nominee Michael B. Brennan’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Booker also asked Carson to address a statement about the Black Lives Matter movement made by the president of Mountain States Legal Foundation after Carson left the organization in 2016.

William Perry Pendley wrote in 2017 that Black Lives Matter was built on a “terrible lie” about the police shooting of Michael Brown that “spread like cancer through inner cities endangering men and women in blue.”

Brown’s 2014 shooting by police in Ferguson, Mo., touched off riots over law enforcement’s treatment of minorities. Black Lives Matter protested that incident and other police shootings.

Carson told the Judiciary Committee that he understood Black Lives Matter to be a grassroots movement against racism. “I categorically reject racism, so those are not my words,” he said of Pendley’s statement.

The Senate panel also heard testimony from four district court nominees:

  • Colm F. Connolly, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware;
  • William F. Jung, nominated to the Middle District Of Florida;
  • Maryellen Noreika, nominated to the District of Delaware; and
  • Ryan T. Holte, nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com