Now comes before my court the case of the black D.C. Superior Court judge accused of prejudice against black church groups represented by white lawyers.

I note that the accused, Judge William S. (Turk) Thompson, has, in effect, pleaded not guilty by saying, "I've been on the bench 19 years and this is just some silly litigation."

Well, I'm not so sure, Judge Thompson, there being several credible witnesses against you, to wit, the president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington and the Rev. Harold Trammell, pastor of the Mount Jezreel Baptist Church, who claim that you attempted to pressure them into firing their white lawyers and hiring black ones.

Indeed, Trammell has alleged that you said, "I am not going to let that 'honky lawyer' get another damn dime from the church."

Judging from your civil rights and legal record, Judge Thompson, this does not sound like you. Yet that same record suggests that even if you did not say this, it is quite likely that you felt it. (Objection overruled. In my court, feelings are admissible.)

It is worth noting that you, Judge Thompson, were yourself a victim of racial discrimination, that as a young man fresh off a North Carolina farm and interested in pursuing a career in law you were relegated to studying at the Robert Terrell Law School, the first night law school in the District that blacks could attend.

Even after receiving your law degree you were not accepted on the basis of your ability, but condemned on account of race. In your day, black lawyers hardly ever got clients other than blacks who were, as you have noted, "generally on the lower rungs of the economic ladder" and that "you had to take a hundred cases that paid only a hundred dollars apiece."

After serving in the army during World War II, you returned home to find that black lawyers were still getting the shaft -- working as elevator operators and at other menial jobs because the segregated legal profession did not afford them a decent living.

It was about that time that you began to emerge as something of a "legal godfather," helping scores of struggling black lawyers make their way in the world of law.

In 1969, you became a judge, and would later become horrified to find that every time a case involving a black church came before you, the church was represented by a white lawyer.

In a sworn affidavit, Trammell quotes you as saying, "Churches do not need to come down here with white lawyers representing them. There are many black lawyers around and I can recommend some good ones to you, but we can't do anything until you fire {the white one}."

Trammell added that the church trustees were "embarrassed" in the courtroom at your "outburst" in accusing the church attorney of "not respecting the closing of the court on Martin Luther King's birthday."

Judge Thompson, I share your frustration with the black church's hiring of white lawyers, especially when white churches do not make a practice of hiring black lawyers. Indeed, the problem is probably much deeper than the belief that white lawyers are better than black lawyers. After all, many of these people apparently believe that God is white, as evidenced by the pictures of blond-haired Jesuses that adorn their churches.

But an even larger issue remains: just because white racism persists does not mean that blacks should become racist.

The best that you can do is continue helping black lawyers become competitive, for I believe that competence and hustle will surely provide the same rewards for them as those qualities did for you.

So, Judge Thompson, based on the evidence -- and the reality that this case boils down to at least four preachers' word against yours -- I must rule for the plaintiffs and fine you one penny, as a reminder that while the struggle for racial equality continues, the fight cannot be won by resorting to the tactics of the oppressor.