It’s been nearly two years–November 2021–since Denise Barnett ’95 was appointed a federal bankruptcy judge in Memphis, Tenn. But due to the pandemic, the ceremonial investiture to mark her appointment didn’t take place until last month. But when it did finally happen, Barnett had a cadre of classmates from law school by her side.
During her speech on July 14, Barnett spoke highly of her alma mater and provided examples of those who helped her during her law school career, including the Black Law Students Association of William Mitchell, which she referred to as her BLSA family.
“When I first started, they became my family,” explained Barnett. “We were few, but we were a very tight bond of students. We encouraged each other and we helped each other. Even the alumni BLSA made sure we were eating, sleeping, and most importantly, studying.”
That bond was apparent nearly 30 years later with her classmates in attendance from locations throughout the United States to celebrate their friend.
One classmate, Ben Omorogbe ’95, said the honor was all his to be at the “special occasion.” Judge Barnett has “always been a hard worker ever since I’ve met her as a 1L student,” said Omorogbe, who is also a former Mitchell Hamline trustee. “She was a hard-working student and lawyer, and now she’s a federal judge. She will serve this district well with her commitment and expertise.
“I’m so proud of her.”
Before her appointment to the bench, Barnett was an attorney with the Department of Justice and in private practice at the Florida firms Pinkston & Pinkston and Smith Hulsey & Busey. She also clerked for the late George Proctor when he was a federal bankruptcy judge in Florida. And Barnett taught as an adjunct professor at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, University of North Florida, and Florida Coastal School of Law.