JUSTICE AND POLITICS

Under Attack, Black Women Tussle with Trump in Pursuit of Justice

Just doing their jobs, they are engaged in historic challenges

Vanessa Gallman
7 min readDec 3, 2023

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Official photos, clockwise: U.S, District Judge Tanya Chutkan, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and New York Attorney General Letitia James

Three Black women — two prosecutors and a judge — are in unenviable positions to lead former president Donald Trump and this nation in lessons on democracy, accountability and the rule of law.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, Atlanta-based District Attorney Fani Willis and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan have been bombarded with threats, often racial or sexualized, from Trump and his supporters. So far, a Texas woman has been arrested for making a death threat against Chutkan; an Alabama man has been charged with targeting Willis.

I worry about their safety. I am also concerned that their gender and race would be used by some as an excuse to ignore Trump wrongdoing and, even worse, his dangerous authoritarian plans for a second presidency. He has already insinuated that the women, and the justice system as a whole, are part of a conspiracy to replace white people in this country.

Yet, in 2022, there were only 33 Black women — less than 2 percent — among the 2,100 elected chief prosecutors in the nation, based on data from the Reflective Democracy Campaign. And even with President Biden’s successful push to get more women of color confirmed to judgeships, there are 59 Black women among the 1,409 sitting federal judges. That’s 4 percent.

That these three are so rare in their professions instills more respect for how they handle their jobs, all the while seeming impervious to intimidation. Their high-profile roles in never-before prosecutions of a former president underscores this nation’s progress. And it instills hope that it will live up to the promise: “No one is above the law.”

James, the enforcer

No question that James, a Brooklyn native, zeroed in on the Trump organization. After all, it has had a reputation for shady business practices for decades, including housing discrimination, unpaid contractors, a fake charity, and a scam business school.

James has already won Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling that the business engaged in fraud by inflating (to…

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Vanessa Gallman

Experienced journalist, educator and retired opinion-page editor with occasional musings