A legal pioneer immortalized: Judge Deborah A. Batts’ portrait to be unveiled

June 30, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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On Oct. 17, the New York City Bar Association will officially unveil a portrait of the late Hon. Deborah A. Batts. The event is a collaboration between the NYCBA, the LGBTQ+ Committee, and the Women in the Legal Profession Committee. The portrait is the culmination of successful fundraising efforts undertaken last year to honor and commemorate Judge Batts’ exceptional legal legacy.

Judge Deborah A. Batts, who passed away unexpectedly in February 2020, was a trailblazer in the United States legal community as the first openly gay federal judge.

Judge Deborah A. Batts, who passed away unexpectedly in February 2020, was a trailblazer in the United States legal community. She was the first openly gay federal judge and the first Black professor at Fordham School of Law, and she used her career to push boundaries and promote diversity and inclusivity.

Batts’ judicial career was marked by far-reaching and impactful decisions that addressed a wide array of legal issues. Notably, she ruled in favor of the Central Park Five in their civil case, spotlighting systemic racial discrimination in law enforcement. She held the Environmental Protection Agency accountable for the inadequate cleanup of toxic dust in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Beyond her professional achievements, Batts was an embodiment of resilience and the relentless pursuit of justice and equality. She used her positions, both at Harvard’s Radcliffe Student Union and as a federal judge, to empower marginalized voices and effect social change.

Her decision to affirm her identity as a gay woman during her nomination process was a significant act of courage that resonated throughout the LGBTQ+ community and set a precedent for future legal professionals.

The upcoming unveiling of Judge Batts’ portrait is a momentous occasion, as it commemorates her groundbreaking career. It also provides an opportunity for the legal community and public to engage in a broader discussion about the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in the legal profession. The portrait will serve as a tangible reminder of Batts’ enduring legacy and her significant contributions to social justice and the legal field.


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