Statement from Scott Garner, Orange County Bar Association President

The Orange County Bar Association's Mission Statement starts with "To enhance the system of justice." If the events of the last week have taught us anything, it is that our justice system needs enhancing. And while that may have been obvious to many of us long before the cruel and unnecessary deaths of people like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and, most recently, George Floyd, the full impact has hit home to many only recently. We recognize the reality that people of color - and especially African Americans - often do not enjoy the same justice system that others take for granted.

As a legal community, we must join together not just to give lip service to our mission, but to reject racism of all kinds and make a real difference. We stand in solidarity with the myriad peaceful protestors here in Orange County and around the nation who cry out for impactful change. We stand in solidarity with our community affiliate and affinity bar associations, as well as other bar associations around the state and, indeed, the country, who commit to making a difference. And we stand in solidarity with those in our community who have been most deeply hurt by these tragic events.

The OCBA's core values stand on diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of those whose voices need to be heard. And while we have made strides to promote diversity and inclusion in our association and our community, we must - and will - do more. Our first step will be to form a task force, to work alongside our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, to determine what steps we as a bar association can take - both immediately and long term - to help ensure that the system of justice we are obligated to enhance and protect works for all members of our community.

Let me end on what I hope is an optimistic note - a recent quote from President Barack Obama:

I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting - that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation's long journey to live up to our highest ideals.