Federal Judge Deborah A. Batts Passes Away

Today I am saddened to write about the death of the person who gave me my first opportunity to work in the legal field.

Deborah Anne Batts, a federal court judge for the Southern District of New York passed away on February 3, 2020 in New York City. She was 72 years old.

I had the honor of clerking in Judge Batts' chambers from 1996 to 1997, while I was a law student. The judge and her law clerks, Karla G. Sanchez, Matthew L. Moore and Roland Acevedo, gave me the opportunity to assist them with their judicial work and I learned a great deal from them.

What I remember most about Judge Batts was her beautiful smile, wisdom and humility. Although she had graduated from prestigious universities and worked in important places, she never bragged and made you feel like a special person.

Committed to justice and a believer in second chances

On Monday, February 10, I was present at the memorial service in honor of Judge Batts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. During the service, we heard beautiful remembrances from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and U.S. District Court Chief Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York; Alexandra and James McCown and Dr. Gwen Zornberg, Judge Batts' children and wife, respectively; and attorney Marcia L. Greenbaum.

Judge Batts was remembered as an exceptional jurist. During her more than 25 years on the federal bench, she handled thousands of civil and criminal cases in a fair and impartial manner.

She believed in holding people accountable for their actions, but also in giving second chances. She helped ex-offenders reintegrate into society after serving their sentences. She supervised one of the RISE (reentry through intensive supervision and employment) Courts in the federal court for the Southern District of New York, through which ex-offenders can reduce their period of supervised release in exchange for participating in a special rehabilitation program under intensive court supervision.

A pioneer and mentor who broke barriers

Judge Batts was the first openly gay federal judge in the nation. She overcame obstacles, broke barriers and opened doors for many law students and lawyers.

Judge Batts was appointed as a federal judge by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

She received her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972. After law school, she clerked for federal Judge Lawrence W. Pierce in federal court for the Southern District of New York.

Judge Batts worked for the prestigious law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. She was also an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division.

Judge Batts was the first African-American professor at Fordham University School of Law, where she taught for more than 30 years. In addition, she led important committees in the legal field and received multiple recognitions for her professional career and service to the legal profession.

Judge Batts mentored many law students and lawyers and helped them in their professional training. She enjoyed sharing her knowledge without expecting anything in return.

A multifaceted and special person

Judge Batts was an eclectic person. In addition to being an excellent jurist, she enjoyed playing the guitar and drums.

He loved cartoons, especially Snoopy, bats, elephants and M&M's candy. Along with her daughter Alexandra, she enjoyed watching different kinds of TV shows, including Spanish-language telenovelas and the Netflix series "The Witcher." Alexandra lovingly called her mother "mamasita".

Judge Batts positively impacted many people's lives, including my own. Those of us who had the great fortune to know her will be eternally grateful for her contributions to the legal profession and the love and help she gave us.