Updated: May 9
Justice Joseph Hatchett
The U.S. Senate passed a bill to name the Tallahassee federal courthouse after Joseph W Hatchett, the first black Florida Supreme Court Justice as well as the first black federal appellate judge in the Deep South. On March 31, Florida House Republicans defeated the bill after a Georgia congressman drew attention to an 11th Circuit decision by Judge Hatchett that rejected student prayer at Florida graduations. Congressman Vern Buchanan drew national media attention, saying he did not know why he had voted against a bill he had co-sponsored. His office later explained he opposed “the judge’s position against prayer at graduation ceremonies.” This comes as no surprise, following the despicable treatment of Ketanji Brown Jackson by Senate Republicans bent on defeating her Supreme Court nomination over cases she had decided and defendants she had represented. These experiences reflect a dangerous failure to respect judicial independence and the role of counsel in a democracy. Over many years, as an advocate and as a jurist, I took unpopular positions without fear of reprisal. The Republican Party’s current culture war threatens both judicial independence and our legal system.
Letter to the Editor of the Sarasota Herald -Tribune, submitted by
Marvin Morse, Former Board Member, Longboat Key Democratic Club