hearing her story: reflections of women judges
The Honorable Rosemary Barkett
Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
ROSEMARY BARKETT currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. She was nominated by President William J. Clinton and appointed in 1994. She had earlier practiced civil and trial law from 1971 until 1979 in West Palm Beach, Florida, when Florida governor Bob Graham appointed her circuit court judge in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida. In 1982 she was appointed administrative judge of the civil division. She was a trial judge and then elected chief judge of Florida’s 15th Circuit in 1983, the first woman chief judge in the state’s history. In 1984 Governor Graham appointed her to serve as an appellate court judge on Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. He then appointed her to serve on the Florida Supreme Court on October 14, 1985. Her appointment marked the first time in the court's history that a woman had been named justice. On July 1, 1992, her colleagues chose her to become Florida's first woman chief justice. In November of 1992 Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to retain her in office.
Judge Barkett is the recipient of seven honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning, as well as earning dozens of prestigious honors and awards from national and state professional, civic, and charitable groups, including being named by Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society as a 2008 Legal Legend. She has also received 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 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 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. In 2010 Florida International University, the Third District Court of Appeal, and the American Inns of Court Program founded “The Rosemary Barkett Appellate Inn of Court.”
Judge Barkett has served on the faculty of Florida’s Judicial College, the National Judicial College, the Institute of Judicial Administration’s New Appellate Judge Seminar, the Aspen Institute’s Justice and Society Seminars, and various other appellate judges seminars and law courses. She taught seminars on constitutionalism and human rights, and comparative constitutions at Columbia Law School and lectured internationally on various substantive and procedural topics, as well as on court administration.
Judge Barkett was born in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, to Syrian parents, who later moved the family in 1945 to Miami, Florida,. Her interest in public service began at age 17 when she entered a Catholic convent, where she served for eight years and taught both elementary and junior high school students. In 1967 she earned a BS summa cum laude from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. In 1970 she received her JD from the University of Florida Law School, where she was the first woman to be awarded the J. Hillis Miller Memorial Award as the outstanding senior graduate.