Judge Mary Rudd-Robinson’s career first began in 1984 as a general master before being appointed as the first African American woman in the judiciary in Broward County’s history.
By Charles Moseley
Judge Mary Rudd-Robinson serves as a shining example of what can be accomplished in life when one works extremely hard to achieve their goals, is dedicated to serving others, and refuses to accept no as an answer to those who doubted her ability to succeed regarding her professional pursuits.
Judge Robinson’s career as a jurist in Broward County spanned over three decades, beginning in 1984 with her appointment as a general master for five years. Judge Robinson then made history as the first African American woman to serve on the bench in Broward County.
After 27 years on the bench Judge Robinson’s decision to step away from the bench, effective December 30, 2016, marked the end of an era, unparalleled in Broward County history.
Retired Judge Zebedee Wright presided on the bench prior to Judge Robinson’s arrival on Broward County’s judiciary being among an earlier generation of African American jurists locally. He made several observations upon learning of Judge Robinson’s impending retirement announcement.
“She served honorably, with integrity and with a devotion and deep commitment to her community. She has also dis-played a great knowledge of the law and did an all-around great job,” reflected Judge Wright.
Bernadette Norris-Weeks, a prominent South Florida trial attorney and the general counsel for the City of West Park, has known Judge Robinson, observing her throughout her career on the bench.
“Judge Mary Rudd Robin-son has served the voters of Broward County with intellect, dignity and respect for many years. Her calm judicial temperament has been her trademark. She is a role model for all women in positions of leadership and has taken pride in always being prepared. Her fairness and keen ability to listen to all sides of an issue will be missed.”
There are currently seven African American judges here in Broward County from among a total of nearly 100 judges, making it all the more noteworthy to have two African American judges living under the same roof. Remark-ably that is the case in the Robinson household, with the judicial tandem of husband Michael and wife Mary Robinson.
There could be no one better qualified professionally or closer personally to Judge Mary Rudd-Robinson than her husband and colleague on the bench- Judge Michael Robinson. He offered his sentiments as seen through the eyes of a husband, colleague, and community servant.
“Mary Rudd Robinson is the best judge I’ve known to have served on the County Court in Broward County. I have watched her for 35 years inside and outside of the courtroom and her magistrate chambers. She matured and transformed into a brilliant jurist, who served the public with integrity, honesty, compassion, and a keen knowledge of the law.”
“As great a jurist as she is, she is a better companion, wife, mother of three, and community servant. Mary spent much of her time away from the bench feeding the homeless, donating clothes and durable items to charitable organizations as well as mentoring young lawyers and high school students who aspire to attend college. She has taught judges at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada and volunteered for years at the New Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she founded the Care Package Ministry. When she’s at home, she enjoys playing the piano and singing.”
“As a community servant, she remains an active member with the Links of Fort Lauderdale, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Rho Omega Chapter, Charmettes, Inc., and Jack n’ Jill of America, Inc. She volunteers whenever called—serving other organizations in South Florida. She is a frequent guest lecturer, who has served on various boards, such as Young at Art and Big Brothers & Sisters of Broward. She’s volunteered at Boys and Girls Clubs- Nan Knox Unit, and various colleges and universities, while assisting students with college applications,” added Judge Robinson.
Judge Mary Rudd-Robinson recently shared her thoughts with the Westside Gazette Newspaper regarding her career.
Westside. Gazette: Why did you choose to pursue a career in law?
“My answer is simple: I believe the preservation of our civil liberties and human rights to be both fundamental and important. If we were ever to allow these liberties and rights to be destroyed, then it would amount to the erosion of a civilized society. This belief formed my basis and desire to enter law school. And in addition to that, I really wanted to help people with their problems through proper legal means.”
W.G.: What was your greatest challenge during your professional career?
“My greatest challenge was gaining the respect of members of the bar who were convinced that a black female could not possibly perform her judicial and quasi-judicial duties of maintaining the proper decorum, controlling her hearing or courtroom, controlling her dockets and ruling timely on matters before her.”
W.G.: What do you consider to be your proudest moments professionally?
“My proudest moments were becoming the first Black General Master in Broward County and then being sworn in as Broward’s first Black female judge by the honorable George Tedder, Jr… Beyond that, my proudest moments were anytime I could help and helped somebody.”
W.G.: How important is diversity in the judiciary?
“Judges must reflect the community’s diversity because diversity lends to the public’s perception of fairness, equity and justice. People need to see judges who look like them when they seek legal redress through the courts or come to courts for criminal matters because it gives the public the perception that there is an understanding and recognition of cultural and historical and similarities of litigants.”
W.G.: What advice would you give to those considering a career in the field of law?
“My advice to aspiring jurists is that you do this because you truly want to serve your community that you know the law, and that you deal with the facts of each case. Realize that you will in essence be the face of justice. You are what the public sees.”