WORLD / AMERICAS
U.S. judge called to apologize after using phrase "China Virus"
Published: Mar 11, 2021 08:50 AM
People take part in a rally against anti-Asian hate crimes in San Mateo, California, the United States, Feb. 27, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

People take part in a rally against anti-Asian hate crimes in San Mateo, California, the United States, Feb. 27, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)


 
Several legal groups have demanded an Ohio judge apologize after he used the term "China Virus" in a column published in a local bar association's newsletter, local media reports said.

Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge John P. O'Donnell used the term "China Virus" three times in his article in the Lake Legal Views while addressing how he handled his duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lake County Bar Association distributed the edition to its members last Wednesday, which quickly ignited a firestorm in the legal community.

Leaders from the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, the Anti-Defamation League and the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, among others, condemned O'Donnell's use of the term.

O'Donnell's word choice had "discriminatory and xenophobic connotations associated with it," the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio said in a statement on Friday.

"Our organization, and community-at-large, is deeply troubled by the use of such discriminatory and racially-charged language by a member of the judiciary, particularly at a time when stereotypes associated with this language have led to a documented surge in anti-Asian bias and racist attacks," read the statement.

James Pasch, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League chapter covering Ohio, said that someone of O'Donnell's stature in the community using this type of language feeds into the racism and xenophobia that Asians have dealt with since the pandemic began.

"There's no place for racism in Ohio, and certainly no place for it in the courts," Pasch said. "During difficult times, it's up to leaders in our community to elevate those being targeted, not to contribute to further harm and feed into conspiracy theories."

Ciera Colon, president of the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, said she plans on filing grievances with the state's disciplinary counsel to seek potential sanctions against O'Donnell for comments she called "racist, stigmatizing and discriminatory."

The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also released a statement on Saturday, condemning O'Donnell's use of the term.

"Courts are to be an example of honor and integrity wherein all who come before them should confidently expect they will be treated fairly. Such overt and reckless language sends the exact opposite message," it read.

"Considering Judge O'Donnell's clear and public feelings, it is next to impossible to think that an Asian American, any person of color, or other minority could walk in his courtroom believing she or he would be afforded such fair treatment," it said.

The use of the phrase "China Virus" has led to a surge in discrimination against Asian Americans, according to a study made by the University of California Berkeley.

Racial bias against Asian Americans had been slowly decreasing in the United States since 2007, but the trend was reversed in early 2020 following the increase in stigmatising language published by media outlets.
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