Tuesday, May 15, 2012


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Court ordered Florida to immediately enroll him in 1957, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that federal law could be superseded by state law in some instances (the now-discredited "interposition" doctrine).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:



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.

His appointments:

Victoria Brennan
Lisa Walsh
Michael Hanzman
Dawn Denaro
Spencer Multack
William Altfield
Thomas Rebull
Rosa Figarola
Ivan Fernandez
Donald DJ Cannava
Angelica Zayas
Norma Lindsey
Richard Hersch
Rodolfo Ruiz
Ariana Fajardo

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?



Anonymous said...

Please do not even begin to suggest that Brinkley or Smith are in the same universe as Bagley or Thomas.

Those judges were skilled and experienced litigators, whose abilities were widely respected, when they were appointed.

Yes, I think that Scott is all of the evil things that you may think -- but I bet the JNC and Scott keep wishing for good candidates to appoint who are Black. You and I might think that he must do so, and his advisors can probably give him a good political motive to do so -- but these candidates are awful [without regard to their race].

Rumpole said...

Nice piece. I am astounded that there are only 3500 African-American attorneys in Florida.

DS said...

How far we have come since my childhood in Jim Crow Miami.
How far we need to go.

Equal Justice Under Law


Really Real American Minority said...

Bill Matthewman called me up yesterday. Mostly just to say hi, but we ended up discussing his opening statement. I gave him some pointers based on my experience. Told him to drop some names, say POTUS a few times, ask Alex Michaels and Ted Mastos to sit with his clients family...

Then I told him that since I know the former head investigator at the SAO, I know lots of stuff. Then I called him a racist because he is white, his co-counsel is white, and his client is white.

Anyway I then got a call from a certain sitting judge presiding over a media case. She called just to get my opinion on some pending Supreme Court cases, but then she asked for some advice on looking Eric best for Court TV. I told her to use a pink shade of lip gloss, some smokier eye shadow, and some Aqua Net to keep the hair out of her face for the camera. I told her I know the head rabbit on which cosmetics are tested, so I know lots of stuffs. Then I called her a racist for being white and a super Racist for being blonde. The double whammy, and sign of the white devil.

It was getting late, but I took one more call. It was Jesus. The guy loves me, calls me every week for advice on when the second coming should be. I told him that I know that FLOTUS was really looking forward to the rapture. I advised him it should be during the spring, better weather.

Then I dropped a few of the apostles names. Just to show I have street cred. I called him a racist because he is white. And he has that long hair like a redneck which makes him white trash. He said he forgave me, and we had a a good laugh.

Fuck you to anyone who doesn't believe me. Respect me or get the reciprocal right back. I have experience and mad oral skills and have earned your respect.

Anonymous said...

Maybe today instead of bitching about all our problems, we should all write a thank you letter to BSO Deputy Oavaldo Petitfrere for risking his life to save the life of Key Biscayne Officer Nelia Real. This includes judges too!

My letter goes out today.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece Caption. I am a black attorney and I was shocked at the low number of black students when I was in law school, which was not that long ago. In a class of 220, there was about 12 black students. And my friends who went to other law schools attested to the similar numbers outside of FAMU Law. And the fact that was most shocking to me is that most of the black students in law school were first generation Americans of carribean descent. Traditional black Americans were completely not represented.

And I am glad you did you research on these numbers too. I hate when my black friends/family make it seem like there is some conspiracy to keep blacks out of law school and off the bench. I don't believe that to be true. I believe the primary problem lies in the black community. Black children are simply not aspiring for higher education at the same rates as children of other racial and ethnic background. I saw when I was in college. Of those who went to college, only a fraction graduated. Of the fraction who graduated, only a fraction of that even aspired for professional school. Of that fraction, only a fraction actually applied and completed their post graduate studies.

We can blame society, racism, Governor Scott, the JNC, whomever. But as a black man, I firmly believe that responsibility lies in black communities, black households and the ambition of black students.

Anonymous said...

The politics of the JNC dwarfs the politics of the polls. The sad part is the number of players who get involved behind the scenes, even Federal Judges lobbying for their friends and former clerks. The process degrades the integrity, if not the dignity, of the judiciary. Consequently, experienced trial lawyers who have actually made it in practice are dismayed by the quality of the appointments and amazed by those who are not appointed. Trying a case before a judge who has zero clue of the rules of evidence and even less of the substantive law is distressful for those who feel that justice depends on a judiciary consisting of the best of our profession. Idealistic, perhaps, but nevertheless the truth is that public perception of our judiciary is nothing to brag about, and even less is the ever eroding public confidence in that judiciary. Sadly we are all responsible for the sad state of affairs in our judiciary, either by action or inaction, or even worst by silently entertaining the political puppet masters, who hand pick and Shepard less than deserving judicial candidates to appointment or election.

Anonymous said...

Just a brief note.... Captain, this post was well done. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

Judge Gayles deserves the appointment to the 3rd DCA. Not good news for all the defendants awaiting trial in his division. He is a wonderful Judge and a great human being. I miss him already.Whoever takes his place in that courtroom has big shoes to fill. Hopefully the spirits of Crespo & Piniero will assist in assuring their legacy of justice is not tarnished.

Really Real For Realz American Minoirty said...

Adam Kaufman is guilty. If he is found not guilty it is because he is white. He doesn't respect the POTUS or VPOTUS. He doesn't respect MLK, Spike Lee, Oprah, or Bill Clinton.

Anonymous said...

As to why so few African-American lawyers in Florida, I think one reason is affirmative action. This is not pro- or anti- the policy, but it does exist. Law schools at the higher end of the US News rankings want black students. To get them in the numbers they desire, they have lower LSAT/GPA requirements for them. According to my google search, the highest ranked law school in Fla. is UF, at 48. This means there are 47 other out-of-state schools that are competing for Florida's black prospective law students and which are viewed as better schools on the whole (many students use the rankings as a very large part of their selection process, regardless of whether you agree with them). The best So. Fla. school is UM, at 69. Once a student goes out-of-state to school, they are that much less likely to come back here to practice. Especially for the top 10 or 15 law schools, the vast majority of students go work in NYC or DC at large firms. If those top schools applied race-neutral admission criteria, fewer Florida blacks would be admitted there and therefore would be more likely to enroll in Fla. law schools and ultimately practice in Fla. You might say that this doesn't make sense because even if the most promising black students do go out of state, the local schools would then reach lower down on the black applicant pool to fill their classes. This is not so because there is a certain floor of GPA/LSAT score below which a school cannot admit students and still have the student have any reasonable possibility of graduating or being successful. A few local schools, notably St. Thomas, go below that floor to admit students and they end up losing a third of the class in the first year. A well-run and respected law school can't operate that way.

There are other reasons why there are so few black lawyers here, but affirmative action is certainly at least one factor in my opinion.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Great post, Captain.

POTUS said...


I dont know, but thank God we have the likes of American Minority to carry the torch.

Anonymous said...

9:57 is correct. When you artificially lower the standards for racial reasons, you are doing a disservice to those admitted because you are basically admitting that they are not qualified to be in your school to begin with. They are being admitted for reasons of politics and not merit. Then they flunk out at much higher rates than regular students and never become lawyers. For example, a black student is qualified to go to UM or UF but because of race, gets admitted to Harvard or Stanford. He never makes it past the first year and its adios to being a lawyer. If he has stayed at UM or UF, he would have graduated and maybe become an ASA or APD and later a judge.

Anonymous said...

Rump,Great article it's how things are been for years contrary to what others belief or non-belief is. Rump you never fail to exhibit a level of magnanimity and humor in and on your Bog, Sir. Thank you for the story it is a surreal circumstance that took place right here in the state of Florida and in other cases all over the United States.

What do you think about the Kaufman case so far? In my opinion, the state has a lacking case and I'm not convinced that Mr. Kaufman committed any crime thus far, with the facts that have been presented.

Anonymous said...

9:57 is perceptive. A qualified black applicant with decent LSATs has many, many options better than the Florida schools.

There was a controversial report a few years back about black applicants being admitted to Harvard Law with LSATs in the 150s. What do you think the *average* LSAT is at UM?

That's not to say a steller applicant might not choose UM or UF or FIU or whatever, but it does explain the low numbers.

Anonymous said...

Should we be concerned with the number of Africa-Americans on the bench? For that matter, should we be concerned about the number of women, or Hispanics or Haitians, or any other group of people?

Isn't justice supposed to be blind?

Can a male judge not be fair and impartial to a woman defendant? Does it make a difference if a Hispanic defendant has a hearing in front of a Hispanic judge? It shouldn't.

What should matter is that they are capable of doing the job, regardless of their skin color, gender or national origin.

While it seems like having a racially/ethnically diverse judiciary should be a good idea, my question is why? Would it somehow make a difference in rulings?

Whose interests are the judge representing? Shouldn't a diverse State's Attorney and PD offices be the aspirational goal? If the SAO represents the people, then they should be representative of the people. If the Public defender helps defend the public, maybe they should be representative of the public.

Anonymous said...

Really, Real AM at 7:18 am

I am puking my lungs out with laughter.

Your Pal,

Fake Blecher

Rumpole said...

American Minority- I did not write the post.The Captain did.

Why hasn't anyone argued the "Clarence Thomas- reverse discriminaion" aspect to all of this. That any qualification based on race is insidious to individual rights and that any and all individuals should be judge solely on their individual merits. That the goal of any society should be to judge an individual on "the content of their character, not the color of their skin." ?

Anonymous said...

today i sat in at the kaufman trial, i think he will get a big NG. state witness got turned against the state expertly. BTW, Judge Firtel was in the audience and was falling asleep and snoring. Nice!

Anonymous said...

We will see what Hyma has to say in his testimony. I have a hard time basing a conviction on one expert's opinion, though.

Wasn't the cat killer case based on "expert" opinion, too?

Anonymous said...

Rumpole,to answer your question, I bet if anyone attempts to point out that it is necessary, because unfortunately this type of attitude still exist in America. What will come about is an online virtual Tea Party, with the occasional theoretical interjection of "why don't you just let us be as racist as we want to be." Had there not been for the Civil War, slavery would still be Law.Had there been no Adolf Hitler, there would have been no need for World WAR. Without Affirmative Action, Clarence Ungrateful Thomas, would have never been allowed into Yale Law School. Thurgood Marshall was denied admission into the University of Maryland, and went to Howard University, which I think is a better school anyways. Rump why is there a need for federal hate crime laws, and racial profiling laws like the one that just passed in Connecticut, as a result of rampant profiling, resulting in the arrest of a Police Sergeant and three Officers by the FBI.If you argue for what is obivous and necessary, the trolls will come out, with their virtual pitch forks and rhetoric. Question is why deny what is, and what has always been, necessary in America? So that's my answer Rump.

Anonymous said...

4:15, It makes a difference because as you and I know,the Law is mostly left to the discretion of the interpreter, such as the ASA,Judge,PD,etc. The fact that behind the suit, ties, and, or robes of all of us are beliefs, biases, and specific personal experiences that shape are attitudes.Psychologically we identify and emphasize with what and whom we relate to even in professional capacities.

Anonymous said...

Rump, American Minority is barely literate. He cannot tell the difference between you and The Captain.

Anonymous said...

To the person who assumes that the reason for the denial of blacks students were LSAT scores, you are lost and pathetic.You are a Non contributor to the betterment of society.#You are a waist of semen.

Anonymous said...

Capt, great post. Kudos, and much respect to you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

7:01, seeing you are a bandwagoner, and a follower, Capt. has posted for Rump. before and I assumed that was the case in this instance. If it makes you feel good, then say what you wish.

Anonymous ASA said...

Ahhhh American Minority. Right when I thought I was done with you, you drag me right back in with your 704 comment.

I cannot believe you were able to be admitted to any reputable college.

Anonymous said...

Waist of semen? Sounds sticky

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone assume Am Min went to a reputable college? Isn't it painfully clear that if he has any schooling past grade 9, that school has no writing program?

Clearly he can read a little, but he never learned to think critically, objectively, nor can he express himself past the occasional four letter word.

Sad, really.

Anonymous said...

In your list of appointments you forgot Fleur Lobree, a very good appointment and deserving of being retained.

Anonymous said...

A waist is semen?

Do you wear a belt or suspenders to keep your pants up when you suffer from this ailment?

Anonymous said...

Lobree is an airheaded goofus

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of the Gov' but you have to admit he has done a real good job in his judicial selections.

Anonymous said...

The numbers never lie.

Anonymous said...

No one should be on the bench because of their race. Period.

Should be based on ability to serve. No more, no less.

Sick of hearing all this. There are numerous minority attorneys in Dade who are qualified to serve. If they submit their name, judge their qualifications, and appoint the best. End of story.

Anonymous said...

American Minority and Angry Gurl are the two most annoying people on this blog. Please start your own blog where the few followers you have can listen to your nonsense there.

Anonymous said...

Waist of Semen is the name of Lis Wiehl's new novel!

Circle K