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Former Justice Rosemary Barkett

Judge Rosemary Barkett

The 71st Justice of the Court, Rosemary Barkett was the first woman to serve and the first female Chief Justice. Her career was a remarkable one. Early in life, Barkett joined a convent where she remained for many years. Later, the Convent's authorities released Barkett from her vows, and Barkett then attended the University of Florida College of Law, where she was an honors student.

Barkett was appointed to the circuit court in 1979, then to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in 1984. Governor Bob Graham appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1985. In 1994, she resigned when President Bill Clinton named her to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The fact that Barkett was the Supreme Court's first woman created some unusual problems. For one thing, the Justices' chambers collectively had only two restrooms: one marked "Justices" and the other for women. With Barkett's appointment, this situation obviously came to an end.

Another problem was Barkett's official title. In the past, Justices always had been called "Mr. Justice _____." Barkett, however, did not like the title "Madam Justice Barkett": She said that she was not married and did not qualify for the other definition of "Madam." As a result, Barkett announced that she would be called simply "Justice Barkett." The other Justices of the Court quickly followed suit by dropping the "Mr." from their titles.