Scope and arrangement
The New York State Commission on Minorities records date from 1970 to 1991 (bulk dates 1988-1991), and contain the files utilized by the commission's members and staff. These files detail their research methods, public outreach, internal communications, administrative responsibilities, and the commission's final published reports. The records reveal the manner in which the commission achieved its mandate of examining the treatment of minorities in the New York State Unified Court System, their research findings, and the recommendations they put forth. Also present are the personal research files and papers of the commission's first executive director, Franklin H. Williams.
The New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities records are arranged in ten series:
The Research Files document the strategies and methodologies of the commission and their research committee. Included are research agendas and plans; background research; bibliographies; notes; research findings; annotated publications and court documents; and subject files. The overall research agendas, outlines, and long-range plans are held within this series. The research findings were utilized to author literature reviews that are contained in Series IV, and inform the twenty research issues the commission chose to address.
Much of the files in Series I were arranged by the commission according to the specific research issues they addressed. There are additional subject files that are arranged alphabetically, and include annotated articles, notes, and other resources consulted by the researchers. While the bulk of the notes are handwritten, there are typed summaries present that accompany many of the resources, publications, and outside research materials. The commission also retained some court papers of cases relating to their research objectives, which are found in the Publications and Outside Research files.
In addition to researching existing publications and court cases, the commission collected written complaints, performed courtroom observations, organized focus groups, held public hearings and meetings, and conducted interviews. The files in Series II contain the materials assembled from this multifaceted complaint collection process.
Written complaints include those received from incarcerated individuals. In order to allow complainants to remain anonymous, the commission assigned each individual a number and filed them numerically. Written complaints were also received from attorneys, judicial employees, and law students, which are filed together chronologically.
Courtroom observations and focus group findings are recorded in the form of both written and typed notes and summaries. There are also some audio recordings of focus groups, most of which pertain to meetings with Native American groups.
The Hearings and Public Meetings files make up the bulk of Series II, and include audio recordings, exhibits, full transcripts, notes, registration information, schedules, and testimony notes. The hearings and meetings were held in cities throughout New York State between 1988 and 1989, and the files from these events are arranged alphabetically by city and county. Also included are notes and recommendations that the commission wrote based on their findings.
The Individual Statements and Testimonies contain transcripts and notes from attorneys, professors, judicial employees, and individuals regarding their experiences with the New York State Judicial and education systems. These files include both typed and handwritten accounts addressed to the commission.
Detailed interviews found in this series, which were conducted by the commission, include the law school interview files, which are arranged alphabetically by school name. These files also hold a small quantity of correspondence with school administrators, and analysis of each program's curriculum and admissions standards.
Series III holds the raw data that the commission collected through written questionnaires, as well as statistical data, and the methodology for analysis of all the collected data.
The commission drafted questionnaires for attorneys, judges, and litigators, which were sent out to hundreds of individuals and organizations, and completed anonymously. The questionnaires are arranged chronologically in the order in which they were completed. The commission also retained early drafts and iterations of the questionnaires, which illustrates their work process and objectives for the survey.
The statistical data features a large selection of raw data and studies pertaining to attorneys, bar associations, law firms, and judicial employees. This includes printouts of statistics and computations, and the codebook consulted by the commission to interpret the data. These files are arranged alphabetically by subject matter.
The commission's interpretation of the data they collected is found in the Survey Analysis files, which holds the data narrative and files pertaining the commission's research issues. The Research Issues files contain analysis of the collected data from questionnaires, which the staff applied to the commission's designated research topics that are defined in Series I. The final analysis of this data is found in volume five of the commission's final report, which is filed in Series IV.
The commission's drafts, proposals, and final reports comprise Series IV. Included are progress, status, and summary reports; chapter drafts and issue reports; chairman's and executive director reports; and the bound volumes of the final commission report. The commission also filed individual drafts for the final report alphabetically by issue name. These files also contain literature reviews based on some of the research compiled in Series I.
The commission was split up into various committees and subcommittees to focus more closely on discrete matters of the broader mandate issues. Each committee and subcommittee, as well as the commission as a whole, issued interim reports between 1988 and 1989. These address the commission's progress and findings, cite research sources, and contain statistical analysis. The full commission interim report also contains annotations, drafts, notes, and an appendix of testimony excerpts from the public hearings.
The culminating final report, entitled Report of the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities, was published in five bound volumes, which are all held in the Final Report files. Also found here are master copies, notes, outlines, recommendations, and working drafts. The final report illustrates the manner in which the individual research issues and statistical analysis were crafted into chapters, and written into a five-volume cohesive report.
Volume one of the final report is comprised exclusively of the Executive Summary. Volume two contains chapters on perceptions, court facilities, treatment, and utilization of the courts; legal representation; pretrial processing and criminal penalties; civil case outcomes; language interpreters in the courts; minority representation on juries; and Native Americans and the court system. Volume three addresses Legal Education, while volume four concentrates on issues pertaining to the legal profession, non-judicial officers and employees of the court; and minority contractors. The eight chapters of volume four cover the bar examination; the legal profession; the judiciary; the non-judicial workforce; testing alternatives; issues with court officers; the non-judicial work environment; and minority contractors.
The fifth volume of the final report includes appendices comprised of staff reports, working papers, and reports submitted to the commission. The views and perspectives presented in these appendices are not exclusively aligned with those of the commission's findings. There are background briefing papers addressing perception, treatment, and utilization of the civil courts; judicial selection and the experiences of minority judges; legal representation of minorities; non-judicial employment; civil outcomes; interpretation and translation in the courts; criminal sanctions and pre-trial processing; the legal profession; the bar examination; and juror attitudes towards minority attorneys and defendants. This volume also holds results to the surveys which are located in Series III, as well as reports and charts of the survey findings. Additionally, there are two reports written by Native American groups to the commission which speak to issues of concern to these individuals. Draft versions of the Native American reports are also held in the Chapter Drafts and Issues Reports in the Indian Issues files.
This series is comprised of the meeting agendas, minutes, notes, and transcripts of the meetings of the full commission, its committees, subcommittees, and outside groups; conference materials; and agendas, minutes, and notes from commission retreats. All the meeting minutes are arranged chronologically, and committee and subcommittee files are arranged alphabetically by committee name. The files contain typed agendas and meeting minutes, some of which include handwritten annotations by staff members. Commission members also attended many conferences addressing racism and legal issues. These files are arranged alphabetically by conference name.
In addition to the hearings and public meetings, whose files are held in Series II, the commission also held meetings with individuals and groups who provided further information regarding racial bias and legal issues. The notes and minutes of these meetings are contained in the Open Meetings files.
The majority of the commission's incoming and outgoing correspondence and memoranda are held in the files of Series VI. Some letters were filed by the commission alphabetically by correspondent's last name, while others were filed chronologically. Incoming and outgoing correspondence are filed together, some of which were recorded in correspondence ledgers that are contained in this Series. There is also a small collection of correspondence and memoranda which was stored separately by Edna Wells Handy, Monica Holmes, and Franklin H. Williams. The correspondence files address all facets of the commission, which includes administrative matters, staff members seeking research assistance, communications with the New York State Unified Court System, individuals seeking general information, and internal memoranda regarding the commission's progress. Communications regarding inquiries about funding are contained in Series VII. Correspondence regarding complaints or hearings information is found in Series II.
Since the commission operated as an entity independent from the state of New York, significant efforts were put forth to secure outside funding in the form of grants, contributions from law firms, and foundation support. The files of these efforts, as well as the commission's budgets and financial records, comprise Series VII. The financial records held in this series only address the sources of outside funding, and do not include items such as payroll, travel expenses, or facilities receipts.
The bulk of Series VII is made up of the alphabetical files of individuals, law firms, and foundations the commission contacted seeking financial support, and their correspondence with representatives from these organizations. In instances of a successful request for funding, a thank you note and letter of acknowledgment are included. These files also include drafts of proposals to foundations, grant applications, and fundraising efforts.
The commission retained records of the press they received, as well as press relevant to their work. These files are held in Series VIII, as are copies of press lists, press kits, and commission press releases. The press packets comprise the bulk of this series, which are arranged chronologically, and contain media packets that were distributed to commission staff.
The administrative files of the commission comprise Series IX. These files include administrative memoranda, equipment inventories, filing procedures, job descriptions, information regarding the staff structure, management plans, mailing lists, personnel files, staff biographies, training materials, and files that address the day-to-day operations of the commission staff.
Series X comprises Franklin H. Williams' personal correspondence and research files; items related to a delegation to Sierra Leone; materials addressing his tenure with the Phelps-Stokes fund; speeches he authored; and United Nations files from his work as ambassador to Uganda. Williams' files are arranged alphabetically by subject matter.