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'Tavis Smiley: Courting Justice' taped in Little Rock to air on AETN Oct. 10

Posted 10 Oct 2016

Four Arkansas judicial leaders participate in the second installment of 'Courting Justice,' a national 'listening tour' being produced in cooperation with PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley, airing on the Arkansas Educational Television Network Monday, Oct. 10, beginning at 9 p.m.

Judges are known to be expert listeners, but a new format will take their listening skills to a higher level. The tour aims to connect judges with the communities they serve in order to provide people from disenfranchised communities an opportunity to discuss the issues that erode trust in the judicial system. The judges and a studio audience of active questioners recorded two sessions at the Central Arkansas Library's Ron Robinson Theatre in Little Rock Sept. 23. The resulting two half-hour segments will air on AETN Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Panelists for this town hall include: Circuit Judge and Chief Justice-Elect John Dan Kemp; Circuit Judge Wiley A. Branton Jr.; Circuit Judge Carlton D. Jones; and District Judge Kim Bridgforth. The audience included invited guests representing Arkansas-based social justice, advocacy, faith and small business communities, in addition to local court and bar leaders.

The listening tour is an effort of the Community Engagement in the State Courts initiative, which is a joint project of the Conference of Chief Justices, the National Center for State Courts, the State Justice Institute and the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The initiative aims to develop effective tools and resources that assist state court leaders in engaging marginalized and disenfranchised communities to ensure equal access to justice for all, and to improve the trust and confidence those communities have in state courts. A recent survey conducted for the National Center for State Courts found that only 32 percent of black Americans believe that state courts provide equal justice to all. 

'I am gratified that many of the most influential judges in the country are eager to step down from the bench and engage in a free and open exchange with the people most affected by their decisions,' Tavis Smiley, who serves on the advisory board of the initiative, said. 'This frank discussion is unprecedented.

'Securing the public's trust in our judicial system is fundamental to our democracy.'

The Little Rock taping was the second gathering on the 'Courting Justice' tour. The first installment took place in Los Angeles on June 6; a third is scheduled for recording in Cleveland, Ohio, on Dec. 8.

Support for 'Courting Justice' is provided by SJI, NCSC, Walmart, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Public Welfare Foundation. More information about Courting Justice is available on NCSC's website at

Tavis Smiley is currently host of the late night television show 'Tavis Smiley' on PBS, now in its 13th season, as well as 'The Tavis Smiley Show' on Public Radio International. He is the author or co-author of 20 books, and his nonprofit Tavis Smiley Foundation is now in the midst of a $3 million four-year campaign called 'Ending Poverty: America's Silent Spaces' to help focus on alleviating endemic poverty in America. TIME magazine named Smiley to the TIME 100, a list of 'The World's 100 Most Influential People.'

The Arkansas Educational Television Network is Arkansas's statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).