For Black History Month, We Honor Former LeGaL member and First Openly LGBT, African-American Federal Judge, Deborah Batts!

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As we enter Black History Month, LeGaL is proud to highlight some of the African-American LGBT leaders in the legal community here in New York.

In June 1994, the Hon. Deborah A. Batts was sworn in as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, becoming the nation’s first openly LGBT, African-American federal judge.

Judge Batts was nominated in 1994 by President Clinton. She took senior status in 2012.

In 1979, Judge Batts became the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division. She worked for the district until 1984 when she joined the faculty at the Fordham University School of Law. Judge Batts was the first African-American member of the faculty and later became a tenured Associate Professor of Law.

Judge Batts has been a member of various bar associations including The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York!

According to her bio:

Judge Batts received her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College in 1969 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972 where she served on the editorial board of the Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review. Upon graduation, she clerked for Judge Pierce, then a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

In 1973, Judge Batts became an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in the litigation department. In 1979, she became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division. In 1984, Judge Batts joined the faculty at Fordham University School of Law; she became a tenured Associate Professor of Law in May, 1990. While at Fordham, Professor Batts taught Property, Legal Research and Writing, Federal Criminal Pre-Trial Procedure, Domestic Relations and an advanced Domestic Relations Seminar on Non-Traditional Families. Judge Batts resigned her tenure when she went on the bench in 1994, but continues to teach at Fordham as an Adjunct Professor.

From 1973 to the present, Judge Batts has been a member of various bar associations including The Bar Association of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and the Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York (LeGal). In addition, she has served on various committees of these associations as well as on the Boards of several educational institutions. Judge Batts was awarded an honorary degree by CUNY School of Law in 1998. She is currently a member of the CUNY School of Law Board of Visitors.

In 1990–91, she served as Special Associate Counsel of the Department of Investigation of the City of New York. From 1990 to 1994, Judge Batts was a Commissioner on the Law Revision Commission, State of New York.

In June, 2001, Judge Batts was a Team Member of the Crowley Program in International Human Rights’ Mission to Ghana, West Africa to observe the impact on the status of women in the area of inheritance of PNDCL 111, passed in 1985.

In October, 2001, an oil portrait of Judge Batts by Simmie Knox, which had been commissioned by the Harvard Law School Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alumni/ae Committee, was unveiled at Harvard Law School and accepted on behalf of the school by Dean Robert C. Clark.

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