The federal judiciary is experiencing a crisis of diversity. President Donald Trump has appointed mostly white men to the courts, undoing the progress his Democratic predecessors made toward building a bench that looks more like the country it serves. Diverse judges bring different perspectives to their work—a deeper understanding of racial discrimination, for instance, or a better sense of how law enforcement can oppress minority communities. These benefits were on full display when, on Thursday, a Black judge had to teach his colleague about the existence of racial profiling by police.
Because it is ubiquitous across the country, racial profiling crops up in the background of countless criminal cases. But it was the main focus of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Curry on Thursday. The facts are disturbing: Four officers responded to gunshots heard in the vicinity of Creighton Court, a public housing community in Richmond, Virginia. They drove to a field where they thought the shots originated and saw a group of Black men. An officer confronted one of these men, Bill Curry, who pointed toward the area where he believed the shots had come from. The officer abruptly forced Curry to put his up hands, then demanded that he lift his shirt. When Curry refused, the officer restrained and searched him. A struggle ensued, and the officer testified that an illegal revolver fell from Curry’s clothes.