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Bridging the gap: Law students and legal experts want community members to have their voices heard

State of New York Court Seal
Posted at 12:06 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 06:59:16-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Violence in the Buffalo community has many feeling unsafe, feeling frustrated and wondering what they can do to help. Those in the legal system say it's time for everyone to get involved to solve our city's problems.

"Things aren't changing. They're just kind of getting worse," said Amara Fields, student at SUNY Erie.

Fields, 20, is in the Legal Studies program, learning about how our justice system works. She's always known she wanted to be involved in politics and has spoken out about issues in our justice system in the past.

"As a parent, as someone who went to public schools and dealt with a lot of traumatic's something that needs to be talked about," said Fields.

She's not alone in feeling this way. The Bar Association of Erie County just hosted a free, informal discussion hoping to bridge the gap between courts and the community.

"Communities of color have a disconnect when it comes to law enforcement, we want to break down that barrier and the best way we can make change is from within," said Judge Craig D. Hannah, Chief Judge of Buffalo City Court.

Judge Hannah says the way to make change is to sit on a jury, seek jobs at courthouses and get involved in our justice system. He's part of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission, which started in 1991 to deal with inequities in court.

"I want everyone to know that our court system is fair and just and I want to make sure that when people come in our court system, they're treated fairly," said Judge Hannah.

Judge Hannah says the commission is here for you if you have any issues with the courts system and he'll continue to have conversations to engage the community. Fields wants to get into local schools, speak to students about their rights and teach others what she's learning.

"There needs to be a group of people that come together, especially people that have the power to change this," said Fields. "The SUNY Erie Black Pre-Law Association, we want to be able to speak on that."

Bar Association of Erie County Facebook Page

SUNY Erie Pre-Law Black Law Student Association Facebook Page