Published on: Thursday, September 2, 2021

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph W. Hatchett who died in April at the age of 88, made history in 1975 when then Florida Gov. Reuben Askew appointed him to become the first African-American to serve on the state’s highest court (article available here). 

Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson sent a letter to Florida's U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott last week, calling on them to sponsor legislation in the U.S. House (H.R. 4771) that would designate the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee as the “Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building.”

The House bill is sponsored by Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, and is being co-sponsored by every member of the Florida Congressional delegation, both Republican and Democratic. 

Hatchett ultimately left the Florida Supreme Court in 1979 when then-President Jimmy Carter named him to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the first African American to serve in a federal circuit that covered the deep south at the time (in 1981 the Fifth Circuit was divided into two circuits, with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals created to oversee the judicial districts in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Hatchett moved to serve in the Eleventh Circuit Court).