A graduate of Spring Hill College and the University of Florida Law School, Judge Barkett worked in private practice in Florida and then served in numerous capacities on Florida State Courts, including been appointed as a Justice and later Chief Justice on the Florida Supreme Court, before her elevation to the federal bench. Judge Barkett has been an adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School and Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the International Women’s Forum and the American Society of International Law, where she serves on the Judicial Outreach Program Advisory Board.
Judge Barkett has taken a most unusual career path to the bench. Born in Mexico to parents of Syrian descent, she began learning English at age six when her family moved to Miami. At age 17 she became a nun and joined a convent. A year later she became a U.S. citizen. As a nun for almost 10 years, she taught elementary and junior high school in Tampa, Jacksonville and St. Augustine.
She left the convent in 1967 because she "believed there were other ways to serve humanity." After receiving her B.S. degree summa cum laude from Spring Hill College, she earned a law degree from the University of Florida. She practiced law in West Palm Beach for two years before Governor Bob Graham appointed her to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in 1979. Subsequently, Graham appointed her to the 4th DCA in 1984 and to the Florida Supreme Court in 1985.