Remembering Judge Stephen P. Mickle
The Legal Community recently lost an icon, giant, and trailblazer, not only in the legal profession but our community. Former Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida Stephen P. Mickle passed away in Gainesville, Florida, on January 26, 2021.
Judge Mickle was the first Black student to graduate from the University of Florida in 1966 and became the second Black student to graduate from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 1970.
It goes without saying that the importance of Judge Mickle's journey is directly tied to this organization and its namesake Virgil Hawkins. Judge Mickle was a pioneer and true social engineer that embodied the notion of a servant leader.
Throughout his career as a practitioner, to his appointment to the District Court, Judge Mickle laid a foundation and charted a path that so many of us still follow today.
We take this moment to thank Judge Mickle and to send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. May you have peace during this difficult time, and may his memory and legacy continue to inspire and live in us all and to those who hope to be members of this noble profession.
Kevin C. Allen Nash, Esq.
REMEMBERING JUDGE JOSEPH W. HATCHETT
Judge Hatchett's death marks the loss of another Judicial Giant and trailblazer not only for the Legal community and the Black community but for the state and the country as a whole.
Judge Joseph Hatchett, retired Florida Supreme Court Justice and former Chief Judge of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, passed at the age of 88.
At a time when society did not believe that Blacks were intelligent enough to hold high positions within our country, his service spoke directly to the contrary and through his work ethic he overcame racism and segregation and changed the face of the judiciary.
As a Black attorney, I am reminded of the trailblazers that charted the path. it was their determination, fortitude, and commitment in the face of adversity that paved the way for those of us who endeavor in this noble profession. It is their legacy that must guide us as we push forward as social engineers for change and equality as well as equity for those who have been historically disenfranchised and marginalized in this country.
Judge Hatchett's legacy is so extensive that he must be remembered and celebrated. Many recall his very calming presence, his intellect, and his ability to inspire and empower all those he came in contact with.
While this week we say farewell to a man of great distinction and honor, now more than ever he must live in each of us. His spirit and life’s work must remain a clarion call of the work that must be done. He ran a great race and set the bar high. So how do we truly honor such an impactful individual? Through respect for his fight to overcome obstacles and the continuation of his legacy of service.
Kevin C. Allen Nash, Esq.
The Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar has elected Miami attorney Iris Elijah, a passionate advocate of professional service and chair of the division’s Inclusion and Equality Committee, as the president-elect designate. Elijah will succeed YLD President-elect Todd Baker in June, when Baker takes an oath to replace outgoing YLD President Adam White. Elijah will succeed Baker as YLD president in June 2022. An associate general counsel for Florida International University, Elijah has been a government lawyer since graduating Florida International University College of Law in 2011.
A Call for Accountability
“I do solemnly swear:
I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the
State of Florida;
I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers….; I will
employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means
only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the
judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law…. To opposing
parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in
court, but also in all written and oral communications;
I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact
prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness,
unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself,
the cause of the defenseless or oppressed,
or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God.”
As members of the legal profession, specifically as Attorneys and Officers of the Court we took an oath to uphold the laws of the land and to do so with integrity and honor, as highlighted in the above excerpt. We, the members of Executive Council of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association join in condemning the actions of outright rebellion which occurred in our nation’s capital last week. In particular, we are very disappointed in the roles that some members of our profession played in causing this debacle to occur.
Many lawyers helped the President to perpetuate the untruths, and false misrepresentations to the courts and political base that ultimately led to the assault on the Capitol and the threats to the members of Congress who were engaged in carrying out their constitutional duties.
Lawyers, such as Mr. Giuliani, who asserts that he is the President’s attorney, should be sanctioned or even disbarred for misleading the courts and stirring up the protestors to attack the Capitol. There are other lawyers, even who are elected officials who were also complacent or actively involved in causing the worst physical attack on our legislative democracy, since the founding of the republic. These things should not be. We encourage the legislative bodies and the mandatory bar associations to self-police its members so that this type of conduct will not repeat itself ever again. Those who engaged in the physical assaults and destruction of property should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
In a time where we face a global pandemic, racial injustice and political uncertainty, it is imperative the basic fundamental principles and accountability of our nation be held to the highest standards for all of its members, and not be selective in application.
My colleagues and members of our organization have eloquently and fervently expressed the imbalance of and mistreatment of Black Women, Men and Children in this country, evidenced by the ongoing protests, calls to action and cries for justice.
As Black attorneys we are in a unique position and must continue the call to action for justice and equity, especially for our communities that are most vulnerable and unrepresented. As members of the Bar we are held to a very clear and specific standard, echoed by an oath declaring just that. Failure of this profession to self-regulate in the wake of last week’s events and the continued aftermath of using the law as sword to be wielded by those with power to further their personal and professional agenda, truth be damned, must not be tolerated and must be called for what it is, wrong, deplorable and an extension of racism that functions in furtherance of the agenda of two America’s. One where an attorney of a marginalized group fears the mere appearance of impropriety for worry of professional backlash or even loss of their license, and another where privilege and power goes unchecked and lawyers act as conduits for baseless, unethical and outright unlawful conduct.
As Charles Hamilton Houston eloquently opined, “A Black Attorney is either an engineer for social justice or a pariah on society.” I submit that this applies not merely to Black attorneys but to every member of every bar that has been granted the ability to practice law and has sworn an oath to act in the furtherance of truth and justice.
Kevin C. Allen Nash, Esq.
Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association
VHFCNBA Statement on the Aftermath of George Floyd's Death
The mission of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association is “ensuring access to the justice system; increasing economic parity for the less fortunate and disadvantaged of our society; and educating the community, particularly the Black community, on the need for empowerment and self-determination. In so doing, regardless of race, sex, or creed, the objective of the Association is to promote the administration of justice, preserve the independence of the judiciary, uphold the honor and integrity of the legal profession, encourage economic empowerment for all American citizens, protect the civil and political rights of the citizens of the United States of America as guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Florida, and promote legislation and initiatives to further this mission.”
Even during the midst of a global pandemic, we must confront that violence against Black communities persists and will not end unless there is a transformative shift in the way that we operate as a society. The heinous and inhuman nature of George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement is heartbreaking, preventable, and the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It has sparked moral outrage across the world. We must support the First Amendment rights of those who peacefully march to demonstrate that change is required now. We can no longer wait for a better society. We cannot allow this latest moment to pass us by without genuine reforms or we have failed.
I am reminded that Charles Hamilton Houston, the father of the civil rights movement in America, famously stated that “a lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer [is] a highly-skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.”
As lawyers, we must lend our expertise and our voice to marginalized and oppressed communities, following the example of the founders of the Virgil Hawkins Bar. One opportunity to create enduring change is to advocate for greater African American representation in law enforcement, prosecutorial agencies, and the judiciary to reflect the composition of our community. These groups are vested with extraordinary powers to make life or death decisions so we must insist on the diversity of thought and experiences to improve the quality of these decisions.
Civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, are already calling for common-sense reforms to law enforcement tactics, including a ban on knee holds and chokeholds. Importantly, the NAACP is also calling on the United Nations to classify law enforcement’s mistreatment of blacks in the United States as a human rights violation.
As you formulate ideas for how we can create a better tomorrow, please do not hesitate to contact leadership within the Virgil Hawkins Bar for potential opportunities to work cooperatively on reform measures. At our upcoming quarterly meeting on June 20th, we will continue our discussion on voter suppression and other tactics that disenfranchise African American communities. Now more than ever, we recognize that a free and fair electoral process is vital to creating systemic changes in our democracy.
Grasford W. Smith
Immediate Past President
Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association