Then they excluded residents who wanted to work on reconstruction while exploiting migrant and immigrant workers, and I didn't speak up because I'm not a construction worker.
Then they closed down Charity Hospital, and I didn't speak up because I have health insurance.
Then they discriminated against African American residents in need of home repair grants, and I didn't speak up because I didn't need the grant.
Then they locked up and later tore down public housing, and I didn't speak up because I own my home.
Then they restricted public education for African American children, and I didn't speak up because my child is enrolled in private school.
When they come for you and me who will be left to speak up?
-Monique Harden, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
For the longest time, I couldn’t remember when I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Last summer, my son Jacob made me delve into my jumbled memory when he announced that he, too, wants to be an attorney, and asked how I knew this would be my career.
So here’s where I date myself. It was 1977 when I was first introduced by television to Patricia Roberts Harris. I was blown away. Now I had the good fortune of being raised in a family of highly educated Black women. But Patricia Roberts Harris was different. She encompassed all that was in my family history, and this promise of what could be. I wanted to grown up to be just like her, to study as hard as she had, to work as hard and as long as she had, and to gain the success and the recognition she had. I even made everyone in my family call me by all three names, just for practice.
Friends, while our role models may be different, I am sure each of you had that Patricia Roberts Harris moment. And I know our paths and our family histories, in some cases shared and in others simply interwoven in Louisiana’s rich African-American tapestry, are nearly identical. So I share with you the personal insult I felt … the Slap in the Face ... when I learned Senator Mary Landrieu
There is one obvious choice for at least one seat on the federal district court bench. She is Magistrate Karen Wells Roby. The Honorable Karen Wells Roby was appointed to serve as a United States magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana on Oct. 16, 1998, and since 1999 she has presided over civil jury and non-jury matters in the areas of Title VII, personal injury and §1983 matters upon the consent of the parties. She is also responsible for the review of social security cases and habeas corpus matters challenging the constitutionality of criminal tria1s conducted in the state courts. She is renowned for her adroitness as a mediator in cases pending before the District Court, having successfully resolved cases in the area of Title VII, Jones Act, admiralty, personal injury, contractual disputes and limitations. Magistrate Roby will lead the Federal Magistrate Judges Association as its President-elect next year, and as president in in the following year. This honor was bestowed by her peers nationally in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments as a jurist.
Beyond the bench, Karen Wells Roby is active in community service. She volunteers to serve food at Ozanam Inn. A lifelong education equity advocate, and recognizing the critical state of our public education system, Judge Roby had devoted her time to assisting the education system in New Orleans, as an officer in a parent-teacher organization, designing websites for schools, writing grants, and by serving on the boards of the New Orleans Bar Association and the Louisiana Center for Law & Civic Education. She tutors African-American law students who have experienced difficulty passing the bar exam, and she serves as a mentor for minority young lawyers and students regarding professional career choices and encourages them to volunteer in community activities. She has served on the boards of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the New Orleans Bar Association and the Louisiana Center for Law & Civic Education.
She is a life-long resident of New Orleans, married to Attorney Clarence Roby, and mother of two outstanding sons. Karen Wells Roby is one of us. She shares our history. She lives those values to which we subscribe: integrity, hard work, commitment to the community.
Of course there are other highly qualified African-American attorneys Senator Landrieu could have appointed. But my line of demarcation is drawn at Magistrate Roby. Why? By not fighting for this nomination, we acquiesce to the resurging legacy of our city’s racist past, allowing certain Sinisters to impugn the integrity of one of our best and brightest with unfounded, nasty vitriol. If not Magistrate Roby, then who? Who else amongst us will ever be deemed qualified to take the bench? Senator Landrieu delivered that answer us on Monday with One Big Slap. No one.
I want my son, and your children to have their Patricia Roberts Harris moment. But it has to mean something, their hard work now must not be in vain and, therefore, we cannot let this injustice stand. We must fight together. Join me and take action by sending a letter to Deputy White House Counsel Susan Davies (firstname.lastname@example.org) , who is responsible for day to day operations for judicial appointments, and promoting President Obama’s call for diversity in the federal courts. We must notify the president of this continuing injustice … this civil rights violation … in Louisiana’s appointment process by Senator Landrieu’s actions. We can make this right.
 Filling seats for U.S. District Court judges Stanwood Duval, Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, and G. Thomas Porteus, and U.S. Court of Appeals judge Jacques Weiner.
Susan Davies, Deputy White House Counsel, The White House Office, Office of White House Counsel, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.
Photo above: Judge Karen Wells Roby.