May 18, 2022

U.S. Rep. Lawson’s Bill to Honor Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Hatchett Passes Congress Heads to Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Al Lawson’s bill (S.2938/H.R.4771) to honor Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph Hatchett by 230 votes. The bill would name the U.S. Courthouse of Northern Florida in Tallahassee the “Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett U.S. Courthouse,” recognizing Florida’s first Black Supreme Court Justice.

“Judge Hatchett was a trailblazing American judge and veteran,” Rep. Lawson said. “He was a champion for social justice reform and a dedicated public servant. Despite experiencing racial discrimination, that never deterred his desire to serve in the justice system. He had a long career of prestigious judgeships, military service, and civil rights advocacy that broke barriers for the Black community.”

“I was extremely disappointed in my Republican colleagues who voted against the measure when it was initially brought to the floor because they were misled on a 1990s Hatchett ruling about prayer at a public school graduation,” Rep. Lawson said. “Judge Hatchett simply followed the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Former Governor Reubin Askew appointed Judge Hatchett to the Florida Supreme Court in 1975. Following his tenure Judge Hatchett was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and subsequently, the Eleventh Circuit by former President Jimmy Carter.

“Dedicating the federal courthouse in Tallahassee to Judge Hatchett would honor his influence and commitment to the enrichment of Florida, and communities of color across the country,” Rep. Lawson said. “To many, he will be remembered as ‘Florida’s voice of justice’.”

The entire Florida Delegation co-sponsored this measure, the bill now heads to the Senate for passage.