Chief Federal Judge in LA Resigns Amid Racially Insensitive Comments

Cover Image

A chief judge in one of the largest federal courts, which includes Los Angeles, has resigned his post amid backlash over racially insensitive comments he made regarding a Black woman who is the court's top administrative official. 

According to reporting by the Los Angeles Times, during a June 9 webinar, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, was talking about the ongoing protests taking place around the nation, sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. 

“It’s been sad, quite frankly, seeing our courthouses vandalized with graffiti,” Carney said in the webinar.

Carney then turned his comments to Kiry K. Gray, a federal court employee for 35 years. “Fortunately for me, we have just a fabulous clerk of the court in Kiry Gray. She’s so street-smart and really knows her job,” Carney said. The words "street smart" rubbed several people on the call and those who learned of the comment the wrong way.

On June 1, Carney announced in an email his decision to exit from his position and an apology to Gray and his colleagues. He will remain a judge. 

“I have apologized to Ms. Gray, but I have concluded that a simple apology will not put this matter to rest. There will be division in the Court, unnecessary, negative and hurtful publicity, and a diversion from the Court’s essential mission of administering justice if I were to continue serving as the Chief District Judge,” according to the LA Times. “I cannot allow the Court to become politicized and embroiled in controversy.”

In 2015, Gray became the first Black woman appointed to be the Central District’s executive and clerk of court. 

“To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color. I never knew that there was a different definition of the term," Carney said in an effort to explain himself.