It’s always sad news when we lose one of our pioneers, especially in a month dedicated towards celebrating them.
CNN reports that Deborah Batts has passed away at the age of 72. Batts was the first-ever openly LGBTQ federal judge in the nation’s history. In 1994, she was sworn into the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. Her sexuality was never brought up during her Senate confirmation hearings and she was appointed with very little fuss or fanfare. She retired in 2012 and took on senior status, volunteering her service to the courts. She was set to preside over the trial of Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ former attorney who was charged with stealing $300,000 from Daniels’ book deal.
Batts obtained her bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1969. In 1972, she would graduate from Harvard Law School. She served as a clerk for federal court Judge Lawrence Pierce before going into private practice from 1973-79. In 1984, she became the first black faculty member at Fordham University when she joined as a law professor. She gained tenure in 1990 but would resign when appointed to the federal judiciary. Batts was a mother to James and Alexandra McCown and a wife to Dr. Gwen Zornberg.
Rest in peace to a true pioneer.