Once inactive, Latimer Hawkins Judicial Council rebooted
The Latimer Hawkins Judicial Council, an organization comprised of African American judges committed to the improvement of the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice in Florida, received new life on November 18 during the quarterly meeting of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association at the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.
The council was named after the late Judge Henry Latimer who was a circuit court judge in Broward County and was in line to become the first Black president of The Florida Bar, as well as Virgil Hawkins, who spent years of his life fighting for admission to practice law in Florida. The council was founded in the early 2000s but was inactive for many years.
The relaunch of the council was spearheaded by Judges Michael Robinson and Bradley Harper, as well as Tampa attorney and Hawkins Bar President Valeria Obi. The initial council meeting hosted more than 40 judges from across Florida.
“Maintaining the link between the judiciary, lawyers, and law students is central to our commitment to improving the administration of justice,” Judge Harper said. “We are grateful to the FAMU school of law for continuing its partnership and for hosting 40 of our judges.”
Judges Robinson said the words ” Equal Justice Under Law” remain the clarion call for all who enter the United States Supreme Court.
“These words emphasize what we all know, breathe and walk by, the 14th Amendment requirement that ‘nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law,'” Judges Robinson said. “Our challenge as judges is to meet the difficult challenges presented in the future, including the attacks on the independence of the judiciary, continue to improve the administration of justice, improve the public’s perception of our judiciary and to provide true access to justice for all.”
During the first meeting, the council voted to hold its annual meeting every year during the month of November, with smaller meetings held throughout the year at various locations. Judges in attendance also received continuing judicial education credits during the meeting with presentations made on strategies for well-being.
Obi said helping relaunch the council was a main objective this year and that she hopes it continues to flourish.
“It was an honor to help facilitate this meeting with the judges and it meant so much to our members to be able to fellowship with so many judges from throughout the state. It was a historic moment that I’m glad we were able to be a part of,” Obi said.
Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association consists of a network of nearly 1,000 African American attorneys statewide with 16 affiliate chapters throughout Florida. Their mission is to ensure access to the justice system, increase economic parity for the less fortunate, underprivileged, and disadvantaged of our society, and educate the community on the need for empowerment and self-determination.