Federal Judge Victoria A. Roberts, whose championing of a racially diverse jury pool in federal court, is among a list of notable accomplishments she attained during a distinguished 25-year public service as a member of the federal bench in the Eastern District of Michigan, is set to speak out about how women have shaped the federal judiciary.
Judge Roberts will appear for a special 2023 Women’s History Month Forum on Monday, March 20 at Wayne County Community College District’s Global Conversation Speaker Series moderated by the nationally renowned Detroit journalist Bankole Thompson, who is the executive dean and editor-in-chief of The PuLSE Institute, and a twice-week- opinion columnist at The Detroit News. Thompson, one of the most significant voices on the cultural landscape and a champion for racial justice, is the host of REDLINE, a daily two-hour radio program on 910AM Super Station, and “Sunday Nation with Bankole Thompson,” a weekly statewide televised public affairs and newsmaker program, which is broadcast on Sundays from 1pm-2pm on MyTV38 WADL-Detroit.
The Women’s History Month Forum featuring Judge Roberts which will take the format of a profile-in-courage interview with Thompson is titled, “How Women Have Shaped the Federal Judiciary: Their Role, Contribution and Influence.” The program beginning at 10am will be held inside the Frank Hayden Community Room 236 at the Curtis L. Ivery downtown campus of WCCCD. It is free and open to the public.
Judge Roberts who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the rule of law in her decisions, has worked to help the next generation of lawyers and judges carve out a meaningful future in the practice of the law as well as in the administration of justice.
At the upcoming WCCCD forum, Judge Roberts, who served as the 62nd president of the State Bar of Michigan, and the only Black woman to hold the position, will reflect on her life as a respected jurist, teacher of the law, and mentor to countless law students over the years.
Judge Roberts was appointed to the U.S. District Court in Detroit by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 and she is set to retire in September of this year. She is among the most notable African American women federal judges in the country. Her part to serving at the highest levels of the judiciary follows a long lineage of exemplary and trailblazing women including Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman appointed to serve as a federal judge in the nation.
“The views and voices on the bench are some of the most important in government, especially those serving on the federal judiciary, who are constantly holding executive and legislative powers accountable as we continue this nation’s quest toward forming a more perfect union,” said Attorney Tina M. Patterson, the President and Director of Research at The PuLSE Institute. “It is especially critical to hear from diverse and crucial voices like Judge Victoria Roberts, who exercises her duties while understanding the need for the judicial system to better reflect women, African Americans, and other marginalized communities.”
Patterson added, “With her esteemed body of work and unique viewpoint, Judge Roberts will no doubt bring a wealth of knowledge for this generation to model and carry into a more equitable future.”
Over the years, Judge Roberts has served as a faculty member for numerous legal education seminars, both in the United States and abroad. She traveled to Nairobi, Kenya and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to train lawyers and judges and to Serbia to lecture on collaborating/cooperating witnesses.
She was part of a faculty that presented on Intellectual Property issues to Peruvian Judges in 2016 and to the ASEAN Judicial Colloquium on Civil and Criminal IP Infringement Cases in Bangkok, Thailand in 2018. Judge Roberts presented on programs sponsored by the Department of State in Botswana; The Department of Justice in Nepal; and the International Judicial Relations Office of the Federal Judicial Center in Namibia.
From January, 2008 until May, 2014 Judge Roberts was an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor where she taught “Federal Sentencing: Evolution and Dynamics.”
In August, 2013, Judge Roberts, was appointed by Chief Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes to serve as a mediator in the City of Detroit Bankruptcy case, which was completely mediated and resulted in Judge Rhodes confirming the Plan of Adjustment on November 7, 2014.
Judge Roberts was primarily responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements between the City, its public safety unions and AFSCME, the largest union representing City employees. Judge Roberts also mediated collective bargaining issues in 2015 on behalf of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department as the City of Detroit continued to bring closure to bankruptcy related issues.
Since 2001, Judge Roberts ran a program pairing minority law students with her colleagues as part of the Judicial Extern Program (JEP). Judge Roberts began the JEP in 2000, in conjunction with the Wolverine Bar Association. In 20 years, more than 300 minority law students have benefited through their summer placements with federal judges.
The JEP is patterned after the Summer Clerkship Program (SCP) which Judge Roberts conceptualized the year she served as the WBA President. The SCP begin operational in 1988 and has placed countless minority law students in law firms, placing them on associates and partner tracks.
When Judge Roberts served as President of the WBA from 1986-1987, the organization published “Black Lawyers, Law Practice, And Bar Associations – 1844-1970: A Michigan History,” written by Professor Edward Littlejohn. Popularly known as the “Red Book,” it is the only book to date that chronicles the struggles of Black lawyers in Michigan. The WBA contributed all profits from the Red Book sales to its foundation for the benefit of scholarships for minority students.
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the two highest conferred by the State Bar of Michigan: The Roberts P. Hudson Award and the Champion of Justice Award. In May, 2004, Judge Roberts received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Northeastern University. She was named Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Woman of the Year” in 2013. In 2020, the Wolverine Bar Association established the “Victoria A. Roberts Scholarship.”
Judge Roberts received her Juris Doctor degree in 1976 from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. Her undergraduate degree, in journalism and sociology, is from the University of Michigan. A native of Detroit, she was Valedictorian of the 1969 graduating class of St. Martin de Porres High School.