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In 1999, a presidential proclamation declared June as Pride Month to recognize the struggles and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community in the fight for equality and inclusion. Using Pride Month to look closer at the history of the LGBTQ+ legal community, we learn that the late United States District Judge Deborah A. Batts was the first openly gay Article III federal judge in the nation.
Judge Batts was sworn in during Pride week on June 23, 1994. She served for 25 years until her unexpected death on February 3, 2020. Judge Batts presided over several high-profile cases, including the Central Park Five civil case that involved five youths who were wrongly convicted in 1989.
Judge Batts’ law career began at Harvard Law School where she served on the editorial board of the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review. Then in 1972 she clerked for one year for a federal judge in New York, which was followed by six years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s litigation department, and five years as a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division. In 1984, Judge Batts became the first African American to be a professor at Fordham Law School.
The Justice for All Courts and the Community: A Project of the Federal Courts of the Second Circuit honored Judge Batts memory with a video that captures her legacy, and a conversation with Judge Batts as she celebrated 25 years as a federal judge.
Lawyers Club is proud to continue our tradition of celebrating Pride Month and promoting inclusion of all persons regardless of their gender identity or orientation in our feminist organization.