THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
|VIRGIL HAWKINS (1907-1988)|
In April 1949, Virgil D. Hawkins, a former faculty member of Bethune Cookman College, applied for admission to the University of Florida's law school. In May of 1949, the University of Florida, through the Florida Board of Control (later Board of Regents), denied his admission (as well as five other African-American graduate school applicants) based solely upon race. Mr. Hawkins sought relief through the Florida Supreme Court. The Court acknowledged that he possessed "all the scholastic, moral and other qualifications except as to race and color" for admission (State ex rel. Hawkins, 47 So. 2d 608, 609 (Fla. 1950)). He did not prevail due to the Court's finding that under the Equal Protection Clause, Florida could pay for his legal education in a different state or Florida would build a law school for black students [at Florida A&M University]. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ordered the public schools desegregated "with all deliberate speed" by 1956 in Brown v. Board of Education and in a companion decision ordered the University of Florida to admit Virgil Hawkins. However, Virgil Hawkins was still not admitted to the University of Florida.
Petitioning for his admission to the University of Florida College of Law, Mr. Hawkins eventually went before the Florida Supreme Court three times and the United States Supreme Court twice. After the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Florida to immediately enroll him in 1957, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that federal law could be superseded by state law in some instances (the now-discredited "interposition" doctrine). In 1958, Hawkins withdrew his application in exchange for a court order desegregating UF's graduate and professional schools. On September 15, 1958, George Starke was admitted to the College of Law, UF's first African-American law student. Mr. Hawkins' efforts to desegregate UF law school led the way for the desegregation of the entire State University System in Florida. In 1962, W. George Allen became the first African-American to graduate from the University of Florida College of Law. ( http://www.vhfcnba.org/virgil.html ). For additional information read: http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/36072;
10:49 am - here is what I AM saying:
JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS BY GOVERNOR SCOTT
15 MONTHS - 15 APPOINTMENTS
In the past 15 months, since Governor Rick Scott took office in January of 2011, he has had the occasion to appoint 15 Judges in Miami Dade County to the County, Circuit and Appellate court bench.
(By contrast, in Broward, there has only been one appointment in that same amount of time).
Governor Scott has appointed eight males and seven females. He has appointed five Hispanics. He has appointed ZERO judges of color.
Donald DJ Cannava
But, let's be fair. The Governor relies on the JNCs to send him up to six qualified names for any open positions on the County, Circuit, or 3rd DCA. So, the real question is, how many African American names have reached the Governor's desk? Best that we can tell, out of a possible 90 names (15 open seats multiplied by 6 nominees per seat), the answer is exactly two (2): Judge Rodney Smith and Attorney Tanya Brinkley. So, is it the fault of the Governor? Obviously not. Maybe it's the fault of the JNC.
But, let's be fair. The JNC relies on the members of the bar to apply for these open seats. In the past 15 months, the two JNCs have publicized 15 openings and requested applications from any attorney wanting to become a County Court Judge, a Circuit Court Judge, or a Judge on the 3rd DCA. The two JNC's (Eleventh Judicial Circuit and the 3rd DCA) have received hundreds of applicants for these open seats. How many of the applicants were African American? The best that we can tell (and we do not know the race of every attorney that has applied), the answer is four (4): the previously mentioned Judge Rodney Smith and Attorney Tanya Brinkley and attorneys Michelle Delancy and Gordon Murray.
So, now you know the whole story. Maybe this is not the fault of Governor Scott or our local JNC's. Why are there not more African American attorneys applying for these open seats? Certainly there are many more than qualified attorneys of color in our community that deserve to be on the bench.
We currently have ten African Americans on the bench in Miami-Dade County:
Circuit Court Judges: Bagley, Trawick, Prescott, Gayles, and Thomas.
County Court Judges: Graham, Lundy Thomas, Hendon, Smith, and Seraphin.
There are 123 Judges on the County and Circuit bench in Miami-Dade, so these ten judges represent 8% of the total bench.
But, having said all that, would it surprise you to know that, based on the latest numbers reported by The Florida Bar, (there were 93,293 lawyers as of May 1, 2012), that the percentage of lawyers in Florida that report themselves as African American is only 3.74%. That works out to less than 3,500 African American attorneys, statewide.
So, when I first posed the question as to why there were no judges of color on the 3rd DCA, I thought the problem might come from the top and I immediately looked to the Governor's office. But, taking a much more in depth look at the picture, one finds that maybe there are simply not that many qualified African American lawyers out there that are applying for any of these open seats.
Why are there so few African American lawyers in Florida? Why are there so few African American lawyers applying for all these open seats?
We asked for comments from Wilkie D. Fergsuon Jr. Bar Association President Nicole Ellis and from the Gwen Cherry Black Women's Bar Association President Kymberlee Curry Smith but we have not heard back from either attorney. If they do email us, we will provide our readers with their comments and thoughts.
What are you comments and thoughts on this issue?
CAPTAIN OUT .....