U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett to Deliver Annual Dunwody Lecture

Published: March 5th, 2007

Category: News

United States Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will deliver the 2007 Dunwody Distinguished Lecture in Law at 11 a.m. March 23 in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom at the UF Levin College of Law.

The title of Judge Barkett’s lecture is “Judicial Discretion and Judicious Deliberation.”

Judge Barkett, who earned her J.D. from UF Law in 1970, was the first woman justice on the Florida Supreme Court, sitting as an associate justice from 1985 until 1992, when she was chosen by her colleagues to become the state’s first woman chief justice of that court.

Born in Mexico in 1939 to Syrian parents, Judge Barkett’s family moved to Miami when she was seven. One of nine children, she learned English and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. Judge Barkett began her career as a school teacher. As a member of a religious teaching order, she taught both elementary and junior high school before earning a B.S. from Spring Hill College, summa cum laude, in 1967. Judge Barkett then attended UF Law, where she was an honors student.

Judge Barkett was in private practice from 1971 until 1979 in West Palm Beach. She was appointed to the circuit court in 1979, then to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in 1984. Governor Bob Graham appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1985. For her efforts in protecting the rights of the individual, she received the Judicial Achievement Award in 1986. That same year, she was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

The fact that Judge Barkett was the Supreme Court’s first woman created some unusual problems. For one thing, the Justices’ chambers collectively had only two restrooms: one marked “Justices” and the other for women. With Barkett’s appointment, this situation came to an end. Another problem was Judge Barkett’s official title. In the past, Justices always had been called “Mr. Justice _____.” Barkett, however, did not like the title “Madam Justice Barkett”: She said that she was not married and did not qualify for the other definition of “Madam.” As a result, Judge Barkett announced that she would be called simply “Justice Barkett.” The other Justices of the Court quickly followed suit by dropping the “Mr.” from their titles.

In 1994, she resigned when President Bill Clinton named her to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The recipient of seven honorary degrees, Judge Barkett has also earned dozens of prestigious honors, including The Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, presented by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and the Latin Business and Professional Women Lifetime Achievement Award, in addition to being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. She has served on dozens of boards and committees, and is a member of the American Law Institute, The International Women’s Forum, and the American Society of International Law, where she serves on the Judicial Outreach Program Advisory Board. She sits on the Board of Trustees of Barry University, and was also the National Association of Women Judges Honoree of the Year in 1999.

Each year, two awards are given in honor of Judge Barkett— the Rosemary Barkett Outstanding Achievement Award given to an outstanding lawyer by the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, and The Rosemary Barkett Award, which is presented by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers to a person who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to equal justice under law. The Florida Law Review Dunwody Distinguished Lecture in Law series was established by U.S. Sugar Corporation and the law firms of Dunwody, White, & Landon, P.A. and Mershon, Sawyer, Johnston, Dunwody & Cole in honor of UF Law graduates Elliot and Atwood Dunwody.

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