In Her Honor, Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell provides a rare and thought-provoking insider account of our legal system, sharing vivid stories of the cases that came through her courtroom and revealing the strengths, flaws, and much-needed changes within our courts.
Judge Cordell and Judge Anita Crawford-Willis, BA '82 and JD '86, member of the Seattle University Board of Trustees, talked about "Her Honor, My Life on the Bench...What Works, What's Broken, and How to Change It,” on October 26. The speakers were introduced by Cole Story, a second year law student at Seattle University School of Law and President of the Seattle University Chapter of the Black Law Students Association.
Watch the video recording of this fascinating conversation presented by Elliott Bay Book Company; Northwest African American Museum; and Seattle University College of Arts and Sciences, Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics Department; School of Law; and Black Law Student Association.
Her Honor is for anyone who’s had the good or bad fortune to stand before a judge or sit on a jury. It is for true-crime junkies and people who vote in judicial elections. Most importantly, this is a book for anyone who wants to know what our legal system, for better or worse, means to the everyday lives of all Americans.
Judge Cordell, the first African American woman to sit on the Superior Court of Northern California, knows firsthand how prejudice has permeated our legal system. And yet, she believes in the system. From ending school segregation to legalizing same-sex marriage, its progress relies on legal professionals and jurors who strive to make the imperfect system as fair as possible.
Judge Anita Crawford-Willis was appointed to the Seattle Municipal Court bench in 2017 after nearly 30 years in public service as a Public Defender, Judge Pro Tem, and Administrative Law Judge. She is a native of Seattle and grew up in the Central District. As a graduate of Seattle University and its Law School, Judge Crawford-Willis has been a dedicated alumni leader -- mentoring and empowering students to pursue their goals. She has been honored with numerous awards for her work, has been a member the Law School's Board of Governors and currently serves on the university's Board of Trustees.
About the Book
Her Honor is an entertaining and provocative look into the hearts and minds of judges. Cordell takes you into her chambers where she haggles with prosecutors and defense attorneys and into the courtroom during jury selection and sentencing hearings. She uses real cases to highlight how judges make difficult decisions, all the while facing outside pressures from the media, law enforcement, lobbyists, and the friends and families of the people involved.
Cordell’s candid account of her years on the bench shines light on all areas of the legal system, from juvenile delinquency and the shift from rehabilitation to punishment, along with the racial biases therein, to the thousands of plea bargains that allow our overburdened courts to stay afloat―as long as innocent people are willing to plead guilty. There are tales of marriages and divorces, adoptions, and contested wills―some humorous, others heartwarming, still others deeply troubling.
About the Author
Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell is a legal commentator and police reform advocate, who is a frequent commentator on news outlets including NPR, CNN, and MSNBC. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she became the first African American woman jurist in Northern California, a position she held from 1982 to 2001. Prior to her time on the bench, she was the first lawyer to open a private practice in East Palo Alto, CA, a low-income community of color, and was an Assistant Dean of Stanford Law School where she implemented a highly successful minority admissions program. Following her retirement from the bench, she was a Vice Provost at Stanford University and, in 2010, was appointed the Independent Police Auditor for the City of San Jose. Judge Cordell's public service record spans decades, during which time she has overseen commissions that investigated violence and mental health care in the jail system, as well as accounts of racism in the San Francisco police department.
She has received numerous awards, including Silicon Valley NAACP’s William E.B. Dubois Award, the Iola Williams Public Service Award, the National Council of Negro Women’s Public Service Award, the Social Justice Award from Legal Advocates for Children & Youth, and the Rose Bird Memorial Award from the California Women Lawyers. Judge Cordell founded the African American Donor Task Force to increase black participation in the national bone marrow registry. She is the co-founder of the African American Composer Initiative and CA Parks for All. An artist and pianist, she resides in California with her partner and is the proud mother of two daughters.