By Danielle Johnson, Staff Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services
If you approach the steps of the Edward Brooke Courthouse (named after the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction) around 8:45 A.M. on a Thursday morning—colloquially known as “Eviction Thursday” in Boston—there is a seemingly endless line of people, mostly in street clothes, waiting anxiously to get through the security screening. I approach, dressed in a suit and dress shoes with my hair neatly dreadlocked. I walk quickly past the lines of waiting litigants with my bar card and driver’s license in hand. I am a young African American woman and I am an attorney. In court, I am both an anomaly and a chameleon, depending on whom I encounter.
The Court: The Tale of Two Lines
The familiar discomfort starts outside the courthouse. To get through the door of the courthouse to the Eastern Housing Court sessions on the fifth floor, I must walk past the long lines of fellow people of color waiting to submit themselves to the security screening—that often includes an electronic pat-down—before being allowed in the building. It is my weekly routine to swallow the discomfort of the two lines; one short line for predominantly white attorneys and another longer line for the litigants, including my clients, predominantly people of color. I present my bar card and driver’s license, and after close inspection—notably which are not scrutinized for my white colleagues who flash their cards and proceed before me— I am allowed to pass the first test and enter the foyer of the marbled courthouse….
Read more in the Boston Bar Journal.