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Rosemary Barkett

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Rosemary Barkett, 1992

Rosemary Barkett (1939- ), U.S. Circuit Judge, was born in Mexico to Syrian parents. When her parents tried to follow family members from Syria to the United States in the 1920s, they were stopped in Mexico by immigration quotas. While in Mexico, they had fifteen children, six of whom survived. Barkett became a U.S. citizen in1958. She and her siblings saw their parents as high achievers in adjusting twice to entirely new cultures.

Barkett entered a religious teaching order at 17, where she taught elementary and junior high school for seven years before graduating from Spring Hill College, a Jesuit school in Alabama. When she felt unable to help others from within the convent as she wanted, Barkett enrolled in the University of Florida Law School. After she graduated in 1970, she spent nine years as a trial lawyer with Joe Farish in West Palm Beach, earning a reputation as a caring but tough litigator.

Florida governor Bob Graham appointed Barkett to the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit (1979-1984); the Fourth District Court of Appeals (1984-85); and the Florida Supreme Court, where she was the first woman associate justice (1985-1992) and the first woman chief justice (1992-94). As a U.S. senator, Graham suggested Barkett for a life-tenure appointment in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Barkett’s appointment in 1994.

While Barkett’s work on the bench was sometimes opposed as being too liberal, many of her peers saw her as a champion of individual constitutional rights. Barkett has received seven honorary degrees. Other honors have been presented by the Association of Trial Lawyers, the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, and Latin Business and Professional Women. Barkett was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986.

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