The University of Florida Levin College of Law Center for Governmental Responsibility, the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the George A. Smathers Libraries hosted a discussion with two Florida judicial system luminaries: the Honorable Rosemary Barkett (JD 70) and the Honorable Joseph Hatchett (Howard University School of Law, LLB 59). The distinguished guests, both of whom served as Florida Supreme Court justices and federal appeals court judges, provided a historic perspective on race, gender and justice in the Florida court system.
Barkett, born in Mexico to parents of Syrian decent, was appointed to Florida’s supreme court by then-Gov. Bob Graham in 1985, becoming the first woman to serve on the court, and later, in 1992, became the court’s first female Chief Justice. In 1993, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She left the appeals court in 2013 to serve as a judge on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the Netherlands, a position she still holds.
Hatchett began his legal career amidst segregation in the Jim Crow south. In 1975, after a successful career as a civil rights attorney, he became the first African American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court and the first African American to win a statewide election for public office in the State of Florida. Appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, he served as a federal appeals court judge for 20 years. He moved to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit when it was formed in 1981, later serving as its chief judge from 1996 until his retirement in 1999. He is currently of counsel with Akerman, LLP, in Tallahassee.