Philly courts mired in mistrust, racial tension according to testimony

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two Philadelphia judges and an outside consultant described an atmosphere of racial tension in the city’s courts during a Philadelphia City Council hearing Monday.

Judge Roxanne Covington revealed that she has received not one but two death threats while a Common Pleas judge, including a letter that came to her chambers earlier this year.

“The nature of the threat was very frightening: I’m going to find you, I’m going to rape you and I’m going to kill you,” Covington described.

But Covington said she was even more upset when the court denied her request for a protective detail.

“I had to go home that evening without protection and I spent seven days without any type of protective detail,” she said.

That was perhaps the most dramatic example of what consultant Judy Lubin of the Center for Urban and Racial Equity found was a culture of mistrust and racial tension.

“Staff of color at FJD in focus groups, for example, reported experiencing racial microaggressions, including incidents in which they were ignored in meetings and feeling the need to justify their meriting a promotion after advancing to a higher position at FJD,” Lubin said.

She added that the problems are reinforced by rampant nepotism.

“Historically, Black and Brown people have not had access to networks or social capital that produce the types of inequitable opportunities we heard described by FJD staff,” Lubin said.

The report was completed more than a year ago but was only released in July under pressure from City Council.

Lubin said there was no follow through on recommendations for training and then her contract was terminated.

Court leadership did not attend the hearing, but a spokesman said they are “moving with sustained urgency to address the issues raised in the report.”