Inspiring Conversations: The American Justice System and the Future

During this session of Inspiring Conversations, we will discuss “The American Justice System and the Future” with Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl Racine and Richard (Dick) Nussbaum ’74, Partner at Sopko, Nussbaum, Inabnit & Kaczmarek in South Bend, Ind. In our time together, Mr. Racine will share about his path to becoming the first person elected to this prestigious office, his priorities to transform lives through the role, and also the ways he is making a difference outside of his official capacities. Through his experience as a practicing attorney and his many service roles at the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Nussbaum will share his approach to leadership, as well as his perspective on the future of the American judicial system.

Read the biographies of the speaker and watch the introductory video here: The American Justice System and the Future


Highlights

  • We have a long way to go in terms of changing the way in which communities are policed, particularly in vulnerable communities. However, the conviction of ex-officer Derek Chauvin, is a start. (4:48)
  • “My values are all about focusing our talents, not only on ourselves; that’s okay, but also sharing our talent, especially to those who can benefit from them the most.” (Racine, 7:14)
  • The American criminal justice system is making changes in a positive way, but must accelerate the reform. In fact, America criminalizes, prosecutes, and sentences individuals for longer durations of time (more harshly) than any other country in the world besides Russia, China, and North Korea. (15:14)
  • “From having done defense-side cases as well as prosecuting cases, I have never read an indictment that was entirely 100% correct, and so the role of having a defense counsel and the rights afforded to our defendants in the criminal justice system are incredibly important.” (Racine, 18:24)
  • Hate is a long-standing problem in our country. We know that it is completely inconsistent with the greatness we aspire to [reach] as Americans.” (27:01)
  • “What we can try to do as lawyers is to balance the level playing field if our legal tools can be used.” (Racine, 25:21)
  • “We have a country of more guns than people.” (Nussbaum, 34:34)
  • In order to meet our goal of equal justice under the law, we need to be very sensitive to some of the inequities in our society so that everyone has the same opportunities within our justice system. (36:54)
  • It’s much better to solve something yourself than have someone solve it for you.” (Nussbaum, 39:24)
  • Although the University of Notre Dame has excelled in a variety of different ways (such as maintaining Catholic traditions while simultaneously being open to other viewpoints), the university must work towards increasing diversity and inclusivity. (50:00)

Recap

The Inspiring Conversations Series featured a discussion about the American judicial system and the issue of police brutality with guest speakers Karl Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and Richard (Dick) Nussbaum II ‘74, Notre Dame alum and partner with Sopko, Nussbaum, Inabnit, & Kaczmarek. This virtual event was led by Chris Stevens, the Co-Founding Director of the Inspired Leadership Initiative. Through this conversation, Racine discussed his priorities as the Attorney General of the District of Columbia as well as his journey in order to be elected in that role. Additionally, Nussbaum shared his perspective on America’s violence, the criminal justice system, and the next evolutions of the University of Notre Dame.

Racine was the guest speaker for the first half of the virtual event. Touching on his past, Racine explained that he is the product of immigrant parents from Haiti. When he was an infant, his family left Haiti because of the treacherous and violent leader who severely limited freedom. Consequently, Racine is a proud naturalized resident of the District of Columbia. He became the first elected attorney general for the District of Columbia in 2015, and was re-elected in 2018. As the attorney general, he uses the office to stand up for vulnerable populations in the District who don’t always have a voice, protect the public interests of District residents, defend the District in lawsuits,. As the chief law enforcement officer for the District, he must resolve credible matters and find resolutions. Dedicating his life to solving societal problems, Racine focuses on issues such as preserving affordable housing, protecting consumers from abusive business practices, and stopping the proliferation of hate.

In the next topic of conversation, Racine touched on issues such as the emergence of falsified CDC documents and changes in the American judicial system. Emphasizing the importance of the matter, Racine explained his priority of cracking down on consumer scams, particularly those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding vaccines. Every Democrat and Republican around the country must work together to battle falsity. In regards to changes in the judicial system, Racine spoke about the concept of restorative justice, an alternative to the adversarial process. Restorative justice is an alternative to traditional prosecution. It uses a form of mediation to hold offenders accountable, empower victims, and repair the harm caused by crime. Restorative justice allows victims to have agency in their own process. Since AG Racine launched the program in 2017, his office has facilitated over 150 Restorative Justice Conferences and reports victim satisfaction rates are over 90%.

Nussbaum was the guest speaker for the second half of the virtual event. Nussbaum is a proud Double-Domer, attending the University of Notre Dame for undergraduate studies (where he played baseball for the Irish), and law. First, Nussbaum explained his thoughts on the trial of Derek Chauvin concerning the death of George Floyd as well as ways to prevent America’s mass shootings. Regarding the trial of Derek Chauvin, Nussbaum explained that, although the ex-officer’s conviction was a small step forward, it was a significant step. The recipe for success moving forward lies in the diverse group of prosecutors, witnesses, and jury for the case. In regards to America’s mass shootings, Nussbaum explained the importance of helping the underlying causes such as mental health and systemic racism. However, the largest problem lies in the plethora of guns available to America’s citizens and its easy accessibility. Nussbaum explained that we must have fewer guns, no assault weapons, and enforce these laws. He shared his experience of passing gun legislation in the City of South Bend as the City Attorney. 

In the next topic of conversation, Nussbaum was asked to give his opinions on the ways in which Governor Holcomb and Father Jenkins handled the pandemic. Nussbaum applauded Governor Holcomb for his excellent leadership in the distribution of the vaccines. Additionally, Holcomb had done his absolute best to keep politics out of important health-care decisions. Nussbaum also applauded Father Jenkins’ “courage”. Although he did not initially agree with ND’s decision to open up for Fall 2020, Nussbaum applauded the student body’s cooperation with COVID-19 protocols and the university’s continual connection with local government officials and experts.


View the discussion recorded on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, with Chris Stevens and special guests Karl Racine and Dick Nussbaum.


Listen to the discussion wherever, whenever, on The ThinkND Podcast:


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