A Mobile County Circuit Judge has publicly apologized after facing backlash for asking a pool of potential jurors that included at least one Asian American whether everyone there spoke “Engrish.”
Judge Jim Patterson made the apology last week after making the comments as he addressed a group of potential jurors during jury selection on Aug. 19. One of the individuals in the jury pool then posted on social media about the “Engrish” comment and other remarks Patterson made that day.
“Jury duty summons for the first time in Mobile. So far, Judge Patterson has said ‘broke ass’ three times and asked if everyone spoke ‘Engrish’ in a racist anti-Asian accent,” the post read. “Horrified me and probably horrified the one Asian man who went up to the bench.”
The post was shared more than 120 times on Facebook within a few days, with some people encouraging the original poster to file a complaint against Patterson. Asked about the incident, Patterson declined to speak to a reporter, though he directed questions to a public apology posted on his personal Facebook page the day after the comment was made.
In the post, Patterson said it was a joke and denounced any attempt to label him as a racist.
“Yesterday, while qualifying the jury pool, I made a joke in very poor taste about whether everyone could speak English. I immediately recognized and apologized for my blunder, and I do so again,” Patterson wrote. “The liberals call everyone they disagree with a racist nowadays. I am nothing of the kind.”
The owner of profile who made the original post said they weren’t “entirely satisfied” with Patterson’s response or his characterization of the complaint as “liberal.” However, they did say it made them feel better to know other jurors “will not be subjected to a comment like this in the future.”
“[Calling out] a racist remark isn’t calling the person racist. His identity wasn’t being generalized, as he did with his comment on ‘liberals.’ It was more about calling out potentially hurtful comments and inappropriate behavior,” they wrote in a subsequent post. “I am sure all of us have said things that later we think … hmm … that wasn’t appropriate, so a true apology is warranted.”
As for the “broke ass” comments, Patterson did not apologize. That is unsurprising given Patterson has publicly called the Mobile County’s court system underfunded in a plethora of colorful ways since he was elected in 2016.
Last year, he launched an unsuccessful effort to help cash-strapped local courts by ending the flow of money sent to the state coffers in Montgomery until the local judicial system was fully funded. Alabama’s Supreme Court threw out Patterson’s claim, and called the attempt “inappropriate” and “overreaching” in a scathing order earlier this year. Patterson addressed court funding in his Facebook post as well.
“As for saying the court system was ‘dead ass broke,’ I certainly did,” he wrote. “I have led the battle to restore court funding in this circuit and in the state and I don’t apologize for telling the jurors how broke we are and why it was so important that these jurors were there in a special jury setting where we had to scrape up the money to even get them to the courthouse.”
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