First Black female judge in Arkansas retiring after 37 years


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The first Black woman to become a judge in Arkansas is retiring after 37 years on the bench.

Judge Joyce Warren is set to retire Friday, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She is retiring due to a state law that requires judges who win elections after the age of 70 to forfeit their retirement benefits.

“I thought I would never want to retire because I absolutely love what I do,” said Warren, who serves as 10th Division judge in the 6th Judicial Circuit. “This is the most difficult job ethically, emotionally, mentally — every way you can think about it — but I still love it.”

Warren credits the beginning of her 44-year legal career to her husband, James “Butch” Warren, for suggesting to take the Law School Admission Test in Memphis.

In 1983, Pulaski County Judge Don Venhaus appointed her as a juvenile judge, making Warren the first Black female judge in the state’s history.

Warren was also the first Black law clerk for the Arkansas Supreme Court and the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Arkansas Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, according to the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Though Warren is retiring because of state law, she said she is looking forward to retirement.