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June 2019

Juneteenth

Juneteenth 1-2

Today is a significant day in American history. It is the day commemorated as the end of enslavement of African Americans in the United States. So, as the story goes President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved Africans, that was effective January 1, 1863. The enslaved people in Texas were not officially notified until some two and a half years later on June 19, 1865. 

Of course there are various tales and opinions about why it took so long to notify the people in Texas. Of the states that seceded, Texas was the last of the confederate states to rejoin the United States. There are tales of the messenger being killed along the way. The delay was also likely attributed to the plantation owners who wanted to get another season of harvesting crops out of their slaves. It was about the Benjamins back then and, truth be told, it still is. 

Many people, Black and white, don't like to discuss the horrible period of slavery in this country. It's important that we know our history. It's also important we share our history with our children, even the unpleasant parts. The reality is that enslaved Africans built this country. In spite of the criminalization of educating enslaved Blacks, we not only learned to read, we create, we invent, we produce. On this day and everyday, let's be proud of what our ancestors overcame. Let's build on their legacy and not allow our families and children's consciousness to be poisoned today. Let's continue to fight for our true freedom.

 

 


Judge Rodney Smith Receives Lifetime Appointment to Federal Bench

Judge Rodney Smith
The Honorable Rodney Smith, Judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida

On June 12, 2019, at 2:43 pm ET, Florida Circuit Court Judge Rodney Smith ascended to the position of judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida via confirmation vote of 78-18 by the United States Senate. The position of federal judge is a lifetime appointment.

Smith’s confirmation is reason for many to celebrate throughout Florida and around the nation. He graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a historically-black public school in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. To complete his undergraduate studies, he attended Florida A&M, a historically-black public university. He continued to reach his educational goals by earning a degree from Michigan State University College of Law, a non-Ivy League law school. 

His path to the federal judgeship began with the nomination by President Donald J. Trump for the judicial seat. Smith completed an extensive questionnaire and was advanced for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. He was selected as one of ten finalists for federal judge. As part of the process, the committee sends a blue slip to senators from the home state in which the judicial nomination was received. A senator from the nominee's home state can approve the nominee and advance the nomination to the full Senate or disapprove or take no action regarding the nominee thus ending the process for the nominee becoming a federal judge.

Smith interviewed with Senator Marco Rubio and then Senator Bill Nelson. He also interviewed with White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. He was formally nominated in May 2018, but upon the adjournment of the 115th Congress in January 2019, Smith’s nomination was returned to the President. He was re-nominated later that month upon the convening of the 116th Congress.

Fifty-one affirmative votes were required for Smith’s confirmation. With a final vote of 78-18, he received many more votes than needed. There was still concern that 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were among the 18 senators voting against his confirmation while Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders were among the four senators who did not vote at all.

Smith began his legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office in 1999. He later practiced at several private law firms before joining the Office of the City Attorney for Miami Beach as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in 2007. He was appointed County Court Judge by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. In 2012, Smith was appointed circuit court judge by Gov. Rick Scott where he served until his elevation to federal judge.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida includes the following counties: Miami-Dade; Broward; Palm Beach; Monroe; St. Lucie; Martin; Highlands; Indian River and Okeechobee. The Southern district has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases in those counties that fall under federal law.

Smith is a highly-regarded attorney and highly-respected in the community. He is proof that faith, hard work and a great attitude can take you far in life. He is a member of several organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, 100 Black Men of South Florida, Jack & Jill Dads, Boy Scouts of America; FAMU National Alumni Association, and 5000 Role Models of Excellence. Judge Smith and his family are active members of New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International.

Smith swearing in
Judge Rodney Smith was sworn by Judge Donald Graham on Monday, June 17, 2019 at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse in Miami.
Judge Smith 5000 Role Models
Judge Rodney Smith and son with Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and fellow  5000 Role Models and staff.
Judge Rodney Smith and 100 Black Men
Judge Rodney Smith and fellow members of 100 Black Men of South Florida. From left, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Stephen Hunter Johnson, Pierre Rutledge and Torrence Phillips. 
Judge Smith with Kappa brothers
Judge Rodney Smith with his brothers of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
Kenneth Rodney Tom
Judge Rodney Smith with fellow FAMUans Kenneth Williams and Thomas Jones who are also his Alpha Phi Omega brothers and members of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.
44274952_10216686649657226_3040650280778596352_n
Friends accompanied Judge Rodney Smith for his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. From left, Christopher Norwood, Larry Handfield, Hans Ottintot, Samuel Mustipher and Robert Tyler.