Honorable Judge Arthur L. Burnett, SR
Judge Burnett will be honored this year on stage at the Plaza Hotel in New York City as Top Judge of the Decade while in attendance of IAOTP’s 2020 Annual Awards Gala.
With such a phenomenal impact on society, Judge Burnett has demonstrated success on a global level. He has visited and consulted with judges from foreign countries and served as a briefing judge for the U.S. Department of State in advising foreign judges on the operations of the legal and judicial system of the United States.
Mr. Burnett began in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the US Department of Justice in the Criminal Division in 1958 but was shortly thereafter drafted into the United States Army. He became a Second Lieutenant in the Adjutant General Corps and received the Army Commendation Medal from the Secretary of U.S. Army for his exceptional performance of duty. He continued to serve in the Ready Reserve and was promoted to First Lieutenant and finally resigned his Commission when he was appointed to United States Magistrate in June 1969. In April 1965 he became an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, DC serving as a Senior Prosecutor.
Judge Burnett then became the first Legal Counsel, of the Metropolitan Police Department in DC to oversee the recovery from the riots resulting from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1969 he was appointed as the first African American United States Magistrate, in which he served until December 1975. Judge Burnett then became the Legal Advisor for the United States Civil Service System and served as a principal legal advisor to the President of the United States dealing with all bills pending before the U.S. Congress and reforms in the federal personnel system. Judge Burnett served as the principal author of the Bill resulting in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and Reorganizations of Government Agencies in the Carter Administration.
In January 1980 he was again appointed United States Magistrate in the United States District Court for DC, where he served until 1987 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Superior Court of DC. He retired in October 1998 from active Associate Judge status and became a Senior Judge of the Superior Court and continued to serve actively hearing cases until August 2004. Judge Burnett also served as Judge-in-Residence and co-chair to the Children’s Defense Fund Judges’ Component where he advised on proposed legislation, ran seminars and conferences at the Alex Haley Farm Retreat in Tennessee, and was a speaker for children’s issues and reforms required in the juvenile justice process.
Throughout his illustrious legal career, Judge Burnett has received numerous awards and has been recognized worldwide for his outstanding leadership and commitment to the profession. In 1963, he received the Sustained Superior Performance Award from Attorney General Robert Kennedy in serving as a monitor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. movement. In 1978 he was awarded the Distinguished Civil Service Award for his work on the Civil Service Reform effort under President Jimmy Carter. In 1985 he was recognized by the American Bar Association’s National Conference of Special Court Judges as the Most Outstanding Special Court Judge in America. In 1999 he was recognized as being one of the three Most Outstanding General Jurisdiction Judges hearing all types of cases in America by the American Bar Association’s National Conference of State Trial Court Judges. In 2005 he was Awarded the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession Spirit of Excellence Award for his civil rights history and judicial performance. In 2009 he was acknowledged as a WAYMAKER in the American Bar Association Judges’ Journal for his civil rights history and judicial performance in an extensive interview of his life’s history. In 2010 a chapter was dedicated to him in the “Top 101 Industry Expert Publication” by Worldwide Who’s Who. In 2014 he was recognized by The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy as one of the ten leading substance abuse experts in the US and inducted into DC’s Hall of Fame. For 2017 he was honored as Top Judge of the Year by the International Association of Top Professionals. For 2018 recipient of IAOTP’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019 inducted in IAOTP’s Hall of Fame and for 2020 selected as Judge of the Decade.
Now retired, Mr. Burnett continues to serve as the National Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc. and as an officer in several other non-profit entities, on their Board of Directors, or as an Advisor to such organizations dealing with youth, substance abuse, mental health and juvenile and criminal justice reforms. He was recently reappointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia to a part-time position as a Member of the District of Columbia Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys to a Term ending in September 2020.
Looking back, Judge Burnett attributes his success to gifts given to him at his birth, his integrity, his passion for the law and his commitment to realize the innate talents and abilities of every individual human being, and the support of his lovely wife and five children who have all excelled in their lives. For the future he will continue to give his best efforts as a professional and to fight for justice and true equality for every human being on the face of this earth.