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Renowned Judge to Speak at Sesquicentennial Lecture Series

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Author: Lois G. Russell

Release Date: Jun 06, 2017

The nation’s first African-American U.S. Magistrate, retired judge Arthur Burnett, will be the featured speaker at ASU’s Sesquicentennial Lecture Series.

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A pioneer in the United States judicial system will serve as the keynote speaker for the ASU Sesquicentennial Lecture Series on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.


The Honorable Arthur Burnett Sr., retired Senior Judge of the Superior Court of the District Columbia, will speak at the event, sponsored by The Harold L. Murphy Graduate School, ASU’s  National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture, and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.


“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to bring a speaker of Judge Burnett's caliber to our campus,” said Dr. William Person, dean of the Harold L. Murphy Graduate School. “Although he is retired from the bench, Judge Burnett remains relevant and active in the area of criminal justice. Indeed we look forward to his presentation and feel beneficial to both the University community and the Montgomery community.”


Burnett has been described as a “historical figure who has long been a champion for equal rights for African-Americans and the poor.”


A graduate of Howard University and the New York University School of Law, Burnett promoted equal rights as a lawyer for 50 years, 40 of which he served as a judge.


Among his many stellar accomplishments, Burnett holds the distinction of being the first African-American in the nation’s history to serve as a U.S. Magistrate.


Burnett continues to be an advocate for equal justice in his current position as the National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.


For more information about the Sesquicentennial Lecture Series, call 334-229-4275.


About Judge Arthur Burnett
Arthur Louis Burnett, Sr., was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He graduated summa cum laude from Howard University in 1957, and received his law degree from New York University in 1958. He joined the U.S. Department of Justice in the Attorney General’s Honors Program in June 1958, but shortly after entered the U.S. Army for two years. Upon returning to the Department of Justice in 1961, he was designated as Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Liaison Attorney from the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.


For his work with the Attorney General, Burnett received the Attorney General’s Sustained Performance Award in 1963.  He left the department to become a Senior Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia. In December 1968, he was appointed as the first Legal Advisor, a position now called General Counsel, for the Metropolitan Police Department.


On June 26, 1969, Burnett was appointed the first African-American United States Magistrate (now called Magistrate Judges) in the United States. In December 1975, he left the position of as Magistrate to become the Chief Legal Advisor to the United States Civil Service System for the Executive Branch of government, and subsequently became principal advisor to President Jimmy Carter on government reorganization and civil service matters.  He was the principal drafter of the bill that became the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. In November 1987, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.


In 1998, Burnett retired and became a Senior Judge and the Judge-in-Residence with the Children’s Defense Fund. Since 2004, Burnett has served as the National Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.

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