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Federal courthouse in Tallahassee to be renamed in honor of Joseph W. Hatchett June 30

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Federal courthouse in Tallahassee to be renamed in honor of Joseph W. Hatchett June 30
Joseph Hatchett-1975

Justice Joseph W. Hatchett-1975

The famed United States Courthouse and Federal Building in Tallahassee will soon be renamed to honor a trailblazing former member of the bench.

On June 30, the judges of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida will hold a renaming ceremony honoring the court complex after civil rights pioneer and former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph W. Hatchett.

A retired 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals chief judge and the first Black person since Reconstruction to serve on Florida’s highest court, Hatchett died April 30, 2021, at the age of 88.

Judge Hatchett attended Florida A&M University and Howard University School of Law and was admitted to The Florida Bar in November 1959. In 1966, he was appointed assistant United States attorney for the Middle District of Florida, then first assistant United States attorney in 1967. He was appointed a United States magistrate for the Middle District of Florida in 1971. With this role, Judge Hatchett became the first Black federal judicial officer in the South.

In 1975, Judge Hatchett was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Gov. Reubin Askew, who called the appointment the most satisfying act he performed as governor. Judge Hatchett became the first Black justice to serve on Florida’s highest court. In 1976, Judge Hatchett became the first Black person to win a Florida statewide contested election in the 20th century. In 1979, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the first Black person to serve in a federal court in the Deep South. Judge Hatchett served as a federal circuit court judge for 20 years, including a role as chief judge of the 11th Circuit from 1996-99.

Judge Hatchett retired from the bench in 1999 and became a partner at Akerman, where he chaired the firm’s appellate practice and served as a member of the firm’s in-house moot court panel, Akerman Bench.

Over the course of his career, Judge Hatchett received many honors and awards recognizing his work and commitment. He was inducted into the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame for his dedication to the cause of justice and equality before the Courts of the United States of America and on behalf of the Black community. The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession also awarded him with the Spirit of Excellence Award, which is presented to exceptional lawyers who have made significant education contributions to the promotion of racial and ethnic diversity within the legal profession.

In February 2021, Judge Hatchett was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society. The society honored Judge Hatchett, “in recognition of his highly distinguished career as a lawyer, his many years of extraordinary contributions to Florida’s legal system as a highly respected member of the judiciary, and his lifelong devotion to the improvement of the lives of others.”

The ceremony will take place at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee at 111 N. Adams Street on June 30 at 11 am. Those interested in attending the ceremony should RSVP to Marilyn Mann no later than June 11 at (404) 433-4593 or [email protected].

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