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MINORITIES GET NEW VOICE IN STATE COURTS

Taking steps to ensure minorities have an active role in the state's court system and remain confident about its fairness, the state's top judge, the area's chief judge and a Buffalo jurist long involved in such efforts have announced the upgrading of that court effort here.

During a Buffalo City Court news conference, Chief State Judge Judith S. Kaye and Justice Vincent E. Doyle, the area's administrative judge, introduced State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers in her nonpaying role as the Eighth Judicial District's judge for justice initiatives.

Sconiers, a member of the state court system's Franklin H. Williams Commission on Minorities, said she has asked 12 area judges, public officials and individuals active in the courts and the minority community to serve on a district advisory committee for her.

Kaye, who was in Buffalo for a series of judicial meetings and related matters, said Sconiers and her advisory panel will spearhead a community outreach program to improve community confidence in the fairness of the court system and ensure that racially biased court incidents are avoided.

Kaye and Doyle, judicial overseer of the Buffalo-based eight-county judicial district, said the Williams Commission, which is named after a noted state judge and diplomat, was formed in 1991 to develop strategies to improve the role of minorities in the state's judicial system.

The Sconiers appointment came a month before the Western New York Coalition of Blacks in the Courts will stage its 10th annual tribute to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Erie County Hall.

That event will begin in the Franklin Street court building's second-floor ceremonial courtroom at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

Sconiers said State Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dillon, Erie County Court Judge Michael Pietruszka, Erie County Family Court Judge Michael A. Battle and City Court Judge James A.W. McLeod have agreed to work on her advisory panel.

Joining the judges on the panel because of their work to further racial equality are Andra Mujahid-Moore of Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark and Chief City Court Clerk Sharon Thomas.

Bernard B. Freedman, a past president of the Erie County Bar Association; Buffalo attorney Ross T. Runfola; local NAACP official Frank Mesiah; Buffalo Urban League official Brenda McDuffie; and D'Youville College's Olga Mendell also will be on her panel.

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