Imagine showing up to your local courthouse to request an order of protection, a bit frazzled and overwhelmed, as anyone might be who is seeking protection from someone who is threatening or harassing them. Then imagine being accosted by a judge, man-handled by police officers, and thrown in jail for contempt of court.
On September 4th, that is exactly what happened to Kassandra Jackson, a mother of two, when she went to a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in Ohio, presided over by then Magistrate Michael Bachman.
According to Jackson, she arrived to court early that morning, and was told that she needed to have filled out paperwork associated with the protective order she was requesting in advance. When she was told that it was too late to see a magistrate, she was understandably dismayed and frustrated.
“I was upset … and I was afraid for the safety of myself, my children and my family,” Jackson told ESSENCE. “I was in disbelief that I could not be seen by the judge to have a hearing regarding the protection order I was trying to file. I was confused.”
In the hallway outside the courtroom, and at wit’s end, Jackson broke down. She cried as she tried to make sense of what was happening, and apparently this annoyed Magistrate Bachman (who was hearing another case inside his courtroom).
Eventually, Bachman left his bench and went out into the hallway to confront Jackson. She attempted to move away from Bachman, and he grabbed her by the neck. A judge. Left his bench. And put his hands on the neck of a woman who was in crisis. Once inside Bachman’s courtroom, Jackson was aggressively detained and handcuffed by police officers, then ordered to jail for ten days.
“I felt very uncomfortable,” Jackson said. “I felt like it was unprofessional of someone with such high power. I was abused mentally and physically, but honestly just didn’t want to be hurt. I wanted to make it home to my children. “
This was not Jackson’s her first visit to Michael Bachman’s courtroom—meaning this was not the first time she sought the court’s help in keeping herself and her children out of harm’s way—and in the midst of the horrific state-violence being inflicted upon her, she couldn’t believe she was being denied a protective order all over again.
Last summer, Jackson attempted to file a protective order, which Bachman denied. Because Jackson became emotional about Bachman’s decision (and according to reports slammed her hand against the wall), she was charged with contempt of court and sentenced to five days in jail. The judge even went so far as to call Jackson“belligerent.”
“I feel I was mistreated as an African American single mother during both visits,” Jackson told ESSENCE. “There was injustice in Bachman’s decisions.”
Ultimately, Jackson did not receive the help that she requested or deserved—help that could have made her life and her children’s lives safer and more comfortable.
When we talk about why Black people are fearful of police, and really of interacting with the justice system overall, there are few examples more powerful than what Kassandra Jackson endured on September 4th and even days after as she sat in a jail cell—away from the children she was trying to protect. Not only are unarmed Black men, women and children killed in the streets (and apparently their homes) by police routinely, but in moments when Black people are most vulnerable and most in need of the municipal services their tax dollars pay for, they are denied that help.
Kassandra Jackson still can’t believe that Michael Bachman would abuse his power in the way that he did that day. And let’s be clear, Bachman absolutely abused his power. What we must be willing to do is as ourselves why. Why was Kassandra Jackson deemed belligerent instead of emotionally overwhelmed or terrified or anxious? Black women experience a range of emotions like any other group of human beings; mad or angry are not the only feelings that we exhibit outwardly.
Why was Michael Bachman more concerned about putting Kassandra Jackson in her place than he was about why she seemed so hysterical? One would think that a magistrate that approves orders of protection as a part of his regular duties, would be more sympathetic to a crying woman inside or outside of his courtroom. But sympathy seems to rarely be reserved for Black bodies.
Michael Bachman resigned from his position as magistrate on September 10th, but what happened to Kassandra Jackson requires more action than Bachman’s resignation. Though she was eventually released from jail, she worries about her safety even more now. Not only does Jackson not have the protective order she desperately needs, but her story has been all over the news.
“My family and I will have to deal with the repercussions of Bachman’s actions,” Jackson said. “His resignation is not enough for the injustice, humiliation, and discrimination that he has placed upon me, my family, and the community. But I am thankful to have survived the ordeal because many others have not. “
It sounds absurd that a Black woman is happy and relieved she survived the danger of going into a courthouse simply hoping to find safety and peace of mind, but we all know that it is not so absurd at all.
Black women deserve better—and we demand more.
The entire Hamilton County Common Pleas court system needs to be investigated externally and thoroughly. Further, magistrates who frequently abuse their power should be reprimanded and un-benched. And every effort possible should be made to ensure that Kassandra Jackson receives the help that she needs to guarantee her safety and the safety of her family.