To honor the late Judge Deborah A. Batts, a trailblazing legal scholar and pioneering jurist, Fordham Law School hosted a memorial service on February 2, 2021.
Judge Batts, the first Black faculty member to receive tenure at Fordham Law and a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, passed away on Feb. 3, 2020. She joined Fordham Law School as a professor of law in 1984 and became a tenured associate professor of law in May 1990. Four years later, she resigned her tenure and broke barriers by becoming the first openly LGBTQ judge on the federal bench—after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. During her time on the bench, Judge Batts remained active with the Fordham Law community as an adjunct professor and a devoted mentor to students for more than 25 years.
Along with opening remarks from Dean Matthew Diller, friends, family, and colleagues shared memories of the late judge with attendees. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounted stories from her more than 20-year friendship with Judge Batts, in a video recording from Judge Batts’ 25th anniversary on the bench.
The Deborah A. Batts Scholarship Fund, created to honor Judge Batts’ legacy, was launched at the event. Seeded with funds donated by Fordham Law faculty members and alumni, the scholarship provides support for students dedicated to using their legal education to promote social justice, civil rights, and equality. Scholars work closely with the Center on Race, Law and Justice to engage in original research and analysis of core civil rights issues. Cameron Porter ’23 and Lamar Smith ’23 were named the scholarship’s first recipients.
Porter and Smith said that they were thrilled to get the news from Dean Matthew Diller that they had been chosen as the first Deborah A. Batts Scholars.