Noted by the American Bar Association as a pioneer in Florida law as the first black person appointed to the Florida Supreme Court since Reconstruction, and the first black person ever elected to public office in a statewide election in the South, Joseph Hatchett serves as chair emeritus of Akerman’s Appellate Practice and chair emeritus of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Immediately prior to joining Akerman, he served as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Florida, Georgia, and Alabama). Previous to congressional creation of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, President Jimmy Carter appointed Joseph to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama).
Appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 1975 by Governor Reuben Askew, he continued to serve on that court after a successful statewide election in 1976. Following a career as a civil rights lawyer in Florida, he served as Chief Assistant United States Attorney and Conscientious Objector Hearing Officer for the U.S. Department of Justice and as a full time U.S. Magistrate Judge, all in the Middle District of Florida.
Joseph served as the Chief Judge of the federal three-judge court that drew the Florida legislative reapportionment plans in 1980 and in 1990. After leaving the bench in 1999, he led the team in both the state and federal litigation related to the legislative reapportionment of 2000. In 2005, given his experience in Florida, the federal three-judge court of Georgia appointed him to aid the court in drawing the redistricting plans for the Georgia House and Senate.
In 2005, the National Bar Association inducted Joseph into its Hall of Fame in recognition of more than 40 years of dedication to the cause of justice and equality before the Courts of the United States of America, and on behalf of the African-American community. The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession awarded him the Spirit of Excellence Award, which is presented annually to exceptional lawyers who have made significant contributions to the promotion of racial and ethnic diversity within the legal profession.