Judge Batts:
In your face.

by Danya Steele















Upon asking Judge Deborah Batts to describe herself in three words or less, she instataneously bursts out with an "Aww come onnnn!!!!!", an ostensible foreshadow towards the adjectives to follow. "Three words or less?" she begins, leaning back into her chair, hands locked together, she pauses, and then continues, "Only three? Hmm...I'd have to say passionate...fair...[now smiling] and in-your-face". As the first openly lesbian federal judge, Judge Batts is publicly known as an independant thinker, clearly unafraid of public adversaries in the eye of justice. Lawyers practicing before Judge Batts have found her intellectually curious, thoughtful and fair while I found her to possess characteristics of all of the aforementioned. All of that, along with that extra "spunk" that pushes her of way over the line of being merely "ordinary".

A graduate of RadCliff College and Harvard Law, Batts comes from a solid grounding of education and political training -- no wonder she's so good. No -- on second thought, Judge Batts possesses something internal, something visceral about her when it comes to legalities. She walks with an air of confidence and rules with an air of "Yes-I-know-exactly-what-I'm-talking-about-so-don't-you-dare-walk-into-my-courtroom-even-remotely-unprepared". HarlemLive staffers Antoinette Mullins, Alicia Crosby, and myself were all pre-informed, "She's tough". Well that's obvious, but she's also fair -- with a passion. With a common theme of Tazmanian devil character images placed around her office, hundreds and hundreds of feet above common ground, Batts is the epitome of the judge that, "you just gotta love"; she is the matriarchal figure who "won't put up with your crap", but loves you through and through regardless.

Batts spent thirteen and a half months in a clerkship, and says that she loved every minute of it. Aftewards she moved into a teaching position at well-known Fordham University in Bronx, New York as a political science professor. An alumna of Harvard Law school, an institution which, as she says was "cold and almost dehumanized", Batts makes it a point to instill a sense of passion and genuine care in her rulings when it comes to politics. Enjoying her teaching position at Fordham University, accustomed to inside jokes, pranks, and the occasional knock on the door by a co-worker's "Hey, wanna get some indigestion with me?" before lunch breaks, Batts was totally oblivious to her future position as a federal judge. She smiles as she recalls, "To tell you the truth, I thought it was just another prank at first when I heard." By the time she realized that the offer as a New York City Federal court judge was no prank, Batts had oddly enough remained uninterested. "It just didn't interest me at the time. A co-worker had to talk me into it. He said, 'Just try it'. I really thought about it, and decided to go for it" says Batts.

53 year old Philly Native Judge Batts, making moves like no other judge on the scene right now makes sure to "be very fact specific and case specific" in her trial cases. Definitely seasoned in a variety of cases, I ask, "So what annoys you in your cases?" "I find mandatory minimum sentances frustrating."; Batts believes that cases should be as fair as possible by following an ideology of case specific ruling, individually dealing with each case as its own situation to be acknowledged and dealth with accordingly.

"If you weren't a judge, what would you have been?" we ask. She does that thing she does -- she smiles, leans back in her chair and says "Well I would have loved to be a doctor; that's still a very people-oriented profession. All of my college friends were pre-med[ical students], so I probably would have been a doctor...if I wasn't so bad in math" she says, ending with a warm chuckle. "Also I would have been just happy teaching; I love teaching." Batts is a people person -- obviously. She moves, inspires, and appreciates people. She is fair and passionate; compassionate and honest. What is there to dislike? She manages to be all of this, and that's right, she's "In your face".




|| Home | Archives | WYP | Staff||

Back to the top