Former Florida Supreme Court Justice and retired 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joseph W. Hatchett passed away April 30. He was 88.

Hatchett was the first African American appointed to the Florida Supreme Court since Reconstruction and the first African American ever elected to public office in a statewide election in the South. He served on the state’s Supreme Court from 1975-1979.

Born during the days of segregation, Hatchett grew up in Clearwater, Florida, and attended Pinellas High School. He graduated from Florida A&M University before serving in the United States Army as a second lieutenant, then attending Howard University School of Law in 1956. He took the Florida Bar Exam in 1959 when black examinees could not stay in the hotel where the test was administered because of Jim Crow regulations still in effect.

Justice Joseph W. Hatchett

Hatchett began his legal career in private practice in Daytona Beach, practicing criminal, civil, administrative, and civil rights law in state and federal court. In 1966, he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and then in 1971, he was named a U.S. magistrate for the Middle District. After Former Governor Ruben Askew appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1975, he became the first African American since reconstruction to successfully run a statewide campaign in 1976 when the voters retained him in that position.

In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the circuit bench, where he served 20 years, before becoming the chief judge of the 11th Circuit from 1996-99. He retired from the bench in 1999 and became a senior partner in the Tallahassee office of Akerman LLP. He had recently retired from Akerman.

In January, Hatchett received the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was presented at the Historical Society’s virtual “A Supreme Evening” event. He was interviewed by former Florida Bar Executive Director and Historical Society Trustee, Jack Harkness and he spoke about his proudest moments serving on the Court. The entire award presentation can be seen here.

The National Bar Association had previously inducted Hatchett into its Hall of Fame in recognition of his dedication to the cause of justice and equality before the courts of the United States of America, and on behalf of the African-American community. The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession awarded him its Spirit of Excellence Award, which is presented to exceptional lawyers who have made significant contributions to promoting racial and ethnic diversity within the legal profession.

Hatchett was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Hatchett. He is survived by his children Cheryl Clark (Edward Clark II) and Brenda Hatchett; his grandchildren Roscoe Green (Maiselyn Green), Rashad Green (Meagan Green), Joel Davis, Edward Clark III, Sharilyn Metellus (Fritz Metellus), Lauryn Davis, Marcus Clark (Wren Clark), and James Davis; and great-grandchildren Mirelyz Green, Jordyn Jean, Jaden Clark, Edward Clark IV, Heiress Clark, Jackson Woodrow Green, Jade Metellus, Hampton Leeander Green, and Poppy Clark.

Funeral services for Hatchett were held on Saturday, May 8, at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee.


The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society held our annual “A Supreme Evening” fund-raising event virtually on January 28, and nearly 1,500 viewers watched the evening’s festivities on Zoom. The event lived up to its well-earned reputation as the “must-attend” event of the year for Florida's legal community. 

After remarks by Society President Jon Claussen and Master of Ceremonies Hank Coxe, the audience enjoyed interviews with the court’s newest Supreme Court justices, John D. Couriel and Jamie R. Grosshans.

Chief Justice Charles Canady offered his “State of the Court” address, focusing on the pandemic’s effect on the courts and Florida judiciary, the courts’ swift pivot to the use of remote technology and the trial courts’ backlog of unresolved cases. He also shared plans for a partnership with the Society to create a Judicial Learning Center inside the Court’s 175-year-old library to offer educational outreach and learning programs that draw on the court’s history. Justice Canady concluded with a reminder about the importance of the role of the courts in our system of constitutional government.

The Historical Society presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to Judge Joseph W. Hatchett, who was selected by a unanimous vote of the 75-member board of directors. Following moving video clips from former Gov. Reuben Askew, Chesterfield Smith and 

More of A Supreme Evening

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Fall/Winter 2020 Issue of the Historical Review

Bush v. Gore - 20 years later

The Fall/Winter 2020 Issue of our Historical Review magazine is dedicated to the 36 days after the 2000 Elections, when the world focused on the Florida Supreme Court's decisions of the cases now known as Bush v. Gore. This issue features articles from all perspectives, including journalists, attorneys from both sides and five of the seven Justices who were on the Florida Supreme Court during Bush v. Gore.

 Historical Review   

     Fall/winter 2020 Issue - Florida Elections 2000


  • The 2000 Election: a Chaotic Part of Florida’s past
  • Bush v. Gore in a Historical Perspective
  • Litigating History
  • Gore Team’s Recollections
  • 2020 Vision: Important Lessons from the 2000 Presidential Election
  • How Bush v. Gore Affected the Court
  • Bush v. Gore: Too Close to Call Election
  • Other Business Must Go On
  • Remembering Leander J. Shaw, Jr.

                                                       Read the Historical Review 

A Message From the President Jonathan Claussen

As our state and nation prepare for the upcoming Presidential election, our Fall/Winter issue of the Historical Review magazine commemorates the 20-year anniversary of Bush v. Gore and Florida’s role in the 2000 election.

We hope you will enjoy the articles and features related to this important time in our nation’s history and its potential impact on the election to come. A heartfelt thanks to our Historical Society Trustee and magazine editor, Melanie Kalmanson, for her efforts in compiling this issue of our magazine from an impressive group of authors. The Society is proud and honored that so many of the living Justices that served on the bench in 2000—Justices Wells, Harding, Anstead, Pariente, and Quince— have contributed their thoughts and memories of the historic events 20 years ago. You will also read some surprising insights from Craig Waters, the Court’s Public Information Officer, and Tom Hall, the Court’s Clerk, into how the 2000 election changed Florida’s judicial system forever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused each of us to adjust the way our day-to-day life is led and the Court has constantly juggled the safety of our state’s citizens with the right of access to the courts. We hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy during this unprecedented period in our lives. As we all continue to adapt and adjust to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Society has made the decision to hold its annual event, A Supreme Evening 2021, in a virtual fashion...

Read the rest of the President's Message 

Spring/Summer 2020 Issue of The Historical Review

Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of The Florida Bar


  • Chief Justice Charles Canady Message: Keep the Courts Open
  • 70 Years of The Florida Bar
  • The Florida Bar Complex
  • The Florida Bar Exam
  • The 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
  • The Florida Bar’s Cuban-American Lawyers Program
  • History of the Florida Bar Board of Examiners
  • Court Hosts Online Oral Arguments During Pandemic
  • A Supreme Evening 2020
  • Court Hosts FSU Law Moot Court

The Court Receives Gift of Donn Dughi's Photo Collection 

The Florida Supreme Court recently received an impressive photo collection by renowned photojournalist Donn Dughi. For decades, sitting on the floor in front of them and amidst the flowers, pomp, circumstance, Governor, Cabinet, Senators, and Representatives was Donn Dughi, like a timeless fixture, capturing it all through the lens of his camera. Donn got photos of the Justices on the front row like no one else.

Read more and view Donn Dughi Photo Collection

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The Supreme Court of Florida   - A Journey Toward Justice, 1972 -1987  

Volume III describes the court during its most tumultuous years. Amid he upheaval of the civil rights moment, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, the story begins with reform in the entire Florida court system. It includes the court’s first black justice, Joseph Hatchett; Governor Reubin Askew’s new system for merit selection of justices; and revision of Article V, the section of the state constitution dealing with the judiciary.

Neil Skene moves on to cover landmark court decisions; the introduction of cameras in court; changes to media law, personal injury law, and family ...

To learn more about Volume III

     Volume III is On-Sale

The Supreme Court of Florida

A Journey Toward Justice, 1972 -1987

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