Local judges talk about unique experience as African Americans on the bench

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In the CBS primetime drama “All Rise,” the main character is a black woman who serves as a judge in a California courtroom. However, in the real world, not the land of make believe, it’s not as common to see, including in Nevada.

But 8 News NOW spoke with two local African American judges who are sharing the story of their unique experiences behind the bench, along with how they’re encouraging the next generation.

“The African American female perspective was definitely missing before me,” said Judge Tierra Jones, Clark County District Court.

Judge Jones is the first black woman to be appointed to the district court bench in the entire state. Her appointment took place in 2017.

“I’m just so honored to be a part of starting that trend,” Judge Jones said.

According to Jones, her diversity is a driving force in her decision-making — especially when it comes to life-changing criminal cases because African Americans continue to be disproportionately incarcerated compared to their white counterparts.

“You understand that they may have faced some disadvantages starting out, just because of the color of their skin, and it’s something that; it definitely makes you think about it because it’s an experience that you have had,” Jones said.

Judge Jones previously worked as a public defender and as a prosecutor. She says those career choices, which allowed her to see both sides of the system, help keep her objective.

Photo: Judge Tierra Jones

“It’s very, very important for you to be the neutral magistrate because that is your job, and that is what you’re here to do.”

African Americans only make up a handful of judges in Nevada courtrooms. Judge Timothy Williams was appointed nearly 15 years ago to the district court bench.

He says he’s noticed that, over the years, getting more people of color in this field. It became a slow — but steady — process.

“You want to have a community that will hopefully — a bench that will hopefully reflect the community, but just as important too, you want to have qualified district court judges, that’s what you want to have, and it takes time.”

Part of that process is paving a path to the future. Jones says she does this through various mentorship roles.

“It’s become like a personal responsibility of mine so that young women and young African American women can see, ‘she looks like me, and she did this, so there’s nothing stopping me from being able to do this.”

Jones is paying it forward in an effort to create change.

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