Ash Kalra’s ‘Racial Justice Act’ Aims to End Bias in Prosecution

Silicon Valley Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose)—a former deputy public defender in Santa Clara County—has introduced new legislation to end racial discrimination in criminal sentences and convictions.

Assembly Bill 2542, better known as the California Racial Justice Act, would prohibit the state from convicting or imposing a sentence based on race, ethnicity or national origin.

According to a press release from Kalra’s office, the bill aims to counter McCleskey v. Kemp—a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case that required defendants to prove intentional discrimination when challenging racial bias.

“As lawmakers, we can no longer accept the pervasive issues in our criminal justice system as unfixable—that is why we need to take the next step forward by prohibiting the use of race and ethnicity as a factor in the state’s justice system across the board,” Kalra explained in a Monday afternoon announcement about the bill. “We either do everything in our power to root out systemic racism from our criminal justice system, or allow our proclamations of justice and equality for all to ring hollow.”

If signed into law, the act would allow an individual who’s been charged or convicted of a crime to challenge racial basis based on:

  • Explicit bias from an attorney, juror, judge, expert witness or law enforcement officer
  • The use of racially discriminatory language during court hearings
  • Bias in jury selection, which could include the removal of all people of color from the jury
  • A disparity in charging or convicting people of one race at a higher rate
  • A disparity in giving people of one race harsher sentences

The bill is co-authored by state senators Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles and Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach).

“We do not live in a colorblind society,” Mitchell said. “Statistics show Black people are more likely to receive a death sentence than a white person for the same crime. Racial bias and discrimination determines countless cases, sending innocent men and women behind bars. The California Racial Justice Act is an important step in reforming our criminal justice system while subsequently challenging our racist ideologies.”

The California Racial Justice Act has been sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the League of Women Voters of California and NextGen.

Amber Rose Howard, executive director of the Californians United for a Responsible Budget, said the proposed law aims to “defend Black lives by allowing California to confront systemic racism in the criminal legal system.”

“People all over the country are calling for an end to state violence against Black people, and this bill reminds us that state violence begins in the community and is extended in the courts and in sentencing,” she said. “Passing this policy means addressing mass incarceration at the root and ... tackl[ing] the impacts of racism as we know it.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

6 Comments

  1. Ir is my understanding non-discrimination laws already exist in this country, and they apply to all settings. The flaw is not on the laws but in the non-enforcement and individuals. Ash Kalra is behind groups such as DeBug and other young democrats groups in this county and the state. He is the typical flipping politicians. Those who want to Defund Police and get financial support from policy unions. It is time we get rid of corrupted judges, police, and politicians. ASH KARLA, Ro Khanna, Liccardo, Chavez, Cortese are the first we need to kick out. These and Jeff Rosen are the top corruption club.

  2. Ash Kalra: Can you kindly look into a corrupt organization you once supported, Silicon Valley FACES, where illegal donations are being cashed in by the Executive Director, despite former employees exposing her to the Board who took no action. Their organization declared bankruptcy when their ED Tuyen Fiack ran the org into the ground and their website asks for donations despite their losing their license. This is illegal. Also an enquiry into how public donations were illegally used, how the ED was given a three year hiatus and paid over 120K a year for not doing any work, and how funds meant for public service were used to support a criminal administration. Please do your public duty and investigate and answer the funders. Thank you.

    • The County gave Silicon Valley FACES 90K for camps never conducted. Can you explain where this money went?

    • The county supervisors, Ash Kalra, and community organizations are part of the SCC elites’ club of corruption. The EDs, CEOs, and others work as a group to secure political power and access to the county’s money, our money. Ash Kalra is the connector of these local political groups and social clubs. ASH KALRA HAS TO GO!

  3. Ash Kalra’s assistant Shay Clausen was instrumental in collaborating with Tuyen Fiack to take over Silicon Valley FACES but soon the women were at loggerheads and despite Shay’s well deserved ouster from agency, she did try to warn authorities including Silicon Valley FACES Board President John Kawamoto, Dan Pyne, Frank Fiscalini and Larry Chang, that Tuyen was running the agency into the ground. But due to Larry Chang’s “friendship” with Tuyen, the agency was allowed to run amuck. It’s funds were funneled into pockets of Tuyen Fiack, rather than being used for children’s services. Donors were duped. And despite it’s closure, it still continues to receive donations from public. This entire group needs to be jailed. I think Ash is in a good position to ask for an enquiry should he have the moral sagacity.

  4. If the agency went bankrupt and is closed, but accepting donations, it is a criminal matter.

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