New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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Director of Communications

Racial Disparity in the Application of Justice is Topic for Black History Month Contest

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-The Minorities in the Profession Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association is asking high school students to discuss existing disparities in the application of justice to racial and ethnic minorities versus the majority of the population, in its annual Black History Month Contest for 2008.

The example presented in the contest rules are the recent events that occurred in Jena, Louisiana, where the arrest and subsequent charges of black youths, and the prosecution of one black youth, were viewed by many as excessive and racially discriminatory, especially as compared with the treatment of white Jena youths.

Students who are participating in the contest must submit an essay that will be judged according to creativity, quality of writing, interest to the public and adherence to the specified limitations on length and other competition requirements. The purposes of the competition are to enhance interest in the practice of law by minorities and to encourage excellence in writing by New Jersey high school students.

With the 2008 contest, students will focus on recent events in Jena, Louisiana, which some believe may spark a new civil rights movement. Last fall, when two Black high school students sat under the “White” tree on their campus, White students responded by handing nooses from the tree. The White students received a three day suspension for what was dismissed as a “youthful stunt.” Racial tension continued to mount in Jena, resulting in several egregious cases of violence and threats against Black students, yet no criminal action was taken. However, when a White teen, Justin Barker, was beaten by a group of six Black teens, the six Black students were not only expelled from school, but charged with second-degree attempted murder. One of the Black teens ultimately pled guilty to battery and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The Black History Month Celebration will also feature Black History Month Artist Thomas Patrick McGee. A Camden, New Jersey native who now resides in Cherry Hill, Mr. McGee is a self-taught artist who utilizes color and form to indicate expression and movement. He had recent shows at The Aponti Gallery and The Bauhaus Gallery, both in Collingswood, NJ. His website, features over 50 paintings of present and past works.

Entries in the 2008 Black History Month Contest will be reviewed by a panel of three judges and prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place. The awards ceremony will take place at the annual Black History Month Reception planned for Feb. 25, 2008 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. All contest entries must be received by Feb. 8, 2008. For a copy of contest rules, please contact Valerie Brown, Esq., NJ State Bar Association, New Jersey Law Center, One Constitution Square, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1500.

In 2007, the Minorities in the Profession Section held one of its most successful Black History Month Contests ever when students wrote essays on whether or not use of the “n” should be banned. Press releases and photos can be seen on the NJSBA website,, select Committees, Divisions and Sections and then select Minorities in the Profession Section.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the association’s website at