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The Honorable Earnestine Hunt Dorse

Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse made her mark in life at an early age.  As a 10th grade student at Melrose High School, in Memphis, Tennessee, she lead the student body out of school to support the local sanitation strike and to Dr. Martin Luther King’s march in downtown Memphis.  As a charter member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Choir, she sang with the choir during Dr. King’s last speech.  Judge Dorse and her sister, Mary Hunt, were at the Lorraine Motel on the day of Dr. King’s assassination.  She had left the Lorraine Motel only minutes before Dr. King was assassinated, but Mary stayed.  Mary is the young lady who is pictured standing on the balcony pointing out the direction from which the assailant’s bullet was fired, killing Dr. King.  These events motivated Judge Dorse to complete her education with honors and to attend a historical Black college.

Judge Dorse graduated Cum Laude from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) becoming the first in her family to receive a college degree.  She was an exchange student at Dag Hammarskjold College where she studied United Nation’s Agencies in five foreign countries:  Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; Paris, France; Malmo, Sweden; and Luxembourg, Germany.  Judge Dorse received her Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Memphis in 1984.

Judge Dorse has taught in the Memphis City School system; served as a research associate; and worked as a paralegal.  Her aspirations then led her to practice law with Perkins, Hanna and Associates; The Law Firm of Evans, Willis, Stotts and Kyles; Memphis Area Legal Services and the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.  On December 10, 1990, Judge Dorse was elected as City Court Judge in Memphis, Tennessee, becoming the first African-American female judge in City Courts and the second African-American female judge in the State of Tennessee.

Judge Dorse serves on the board of several community organizations and is a member of many professional associations.  She is particularly active in the National Bar Association and has chaired several committees. She was the 2003-2004 National Bar Association Judicial Council Chair and is also presently a member of the Ben F. Jones Affiliate Chapter of the National Bar Association.  Judge Dorse has been a faculty member at the National Judicial College and is a past-chair of the American Bar Association Judicial Division National Conference of Specialized Court Judges’ Committee on Mental Health Courts.  She also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Council of Community Behavioral Health Organizations; Chair of the Board of Directors for Memphis Mid-Town Mental Health Center; and is an Executive Board Member of Sister Network, Memphis Chapter.

Judge Dorse is a member of Mount Pisgah CME Church where she serves on the Steward Board and is a member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority.

Judge Dorse is married to businessman Fred O. Dorse and they have seven children and four grandsons.

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