Rosemary Barkett : biography
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.
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.
Once on President Clinton's short list for the United States Supreme Court, Barkett was used in attack ads when Robert Dole ran for President as an example of a liberal activist judge.
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.
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