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|Barkett on the Supreme Court of Florida|
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit|
April 15, 1994
|Appointed by||Bill Clinton|
|Preceded by||Paul Roney|
August 29, 1939 |
|Alma mater||Saint Joseph College, Florida
Spring Hill College
University of Florida
Rosemary Barkett (born August 29, 1939) is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Prior to her nomination for that post, she was Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, where she was the first woman ever to serve on that court.
Barkett has had an unusual career path for a judge. One of seven children who survived into adulthood, Barkett, whose birth surname is Barakat, was born in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico to parents recently immigrated from Syria, Assad and Mariam Barakat. In January, 1946, at age six, she moved to Miami, Florida. By birth she was a Mexican citizen, speaking only Spanish until she came to Miami, making Barkett the first Hispanic judge to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, as well as the first female judge and the first Arab American judge. She became a U.S. citizen in 1958.
At 17, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph and became a nun. For almost 10 years - from 1957 to 1967, she was known as Sister St. Michael. During much of that time, from 1960 to 1968, she also taught elementary school and junior high school classes in Tampa, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine, Florida.
In 1967 Barkett left the convent because, in her own words, she believed there were other ways for her to serve humanity. She received her B.S. from Spring Hill College, summa cum laude, in 1967, and her J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law in 1970, where she graduated near the top of her class. Barkett worked as a lawyer in private practice from 1971 until 1979 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Florida Supreme Court 
After nearly a decade in private practice, Barkett was appointed as a state circuit court judge in 1979, by Governor Bob Graham. She advanced to higher judicial offices, as the Chief Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida and as an Appellate Judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida in 1984. The following year she was appointed by Governor Graham to the Florida Supreme Court, the first woman to serve in this position. In 1992 she was chosen by her colleagues to become the state's first woman Chief Justice.
As Florida's first female Supreme Court Justice, her appointment highlighted a number of gender-bias issues within the institution. Prior to her appointment, justices' chambers had only two restrooms, one marked "Justices," the other marked "women." In addition to that change, her tenure ended the use of the title "Mr. Justice." Barkett was to be called "Madam Justice Barkett," which she felt was inappropriate because she was not married. Instead she requested to be addressed simply as "Justice Barkett." The other justices followed suit and dropped "Mr." from their titles.
During a rancorous merit retention election in 1992, critics portrayed Barkett as overly friendly towards criminals. Despite a negative advertisement campaign to discredit her, sixty-one percent of voters chose to keep her on the high court. Her supporters have credited her exemplary service on the bench and the many admirable qualities for which she is known, including intelligence, leadership, fairness, firmness and a strong sense of civility.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals 
On September 24, 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Barkett to a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which reviews cases from Florida, Alabama, and Georgia) which had been vacated by Paul Hitch Roney. Her confirmation by the U.S. Senate took more than six months because of conservative politicians' concerns that she was unwilling to support the death penalty. Her response to this assertion was that she was sworn to uphold the law, and that the death penalty was part of state law. Her record supported this position—during eight years on the high court, she voted to uphold the death penalty in more than 200 cases. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 14, 1994 by a 61-37 vote, and she received her commission on April 15, 1994.
Troy Davis case 
Barkett was a member of the three-judge panel which issued two notable rulings in the Troy Davis case. Davis, convicted of the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer and sentenced to death, has maintained his innocence, and sought an opportunity to introduce new evidence regarding inconsistencies in and recantations of key testimony used against him at trial. Barkett dissented from a 2009 ruling denying Davis's habeas petition, but concurred in a November 2010 ruling which denied another of Davis's appeals. In both cases, Barkett expressed her concern that Davis might have been wrongfully convicted.
The recipient of seven honorary degrees, 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 1986 she was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. That same year she received the Judicial Achievement Award for her efforts in protecting the rights of the individual. 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.
Two awards are given in honor of Judge Barkett each year. The Rosemary Barkett Outstanding Achievement Award is given to an outstanding lawyer by the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, and The Rosemary Barkett Award is presented by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to equal justice under law.
- Rosemary Barkett at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- The 50 most important Floridians of the 20th Century - Rosemary Barkett
- ABA Commission on Women article on Rosemary Barkett
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit