February 21, 2020
Destiny Williams, Esquire | Black Girls Do Law, Founder
“A man’s freedom is at stake. His voice matters. It’s important.” -
“I need to make a difference, but I can’t tell if this is the battle or if this is the war.”
“We still have a lot of work to do.”
-Judge Lola Carmichael, All Rise
One of the first Black Girls Do Law (“BGDL”) merchandise designs included a design that paid homage to the six great Phenomenal TV Lawyers that have represented us from 1984 until 2020. The design included the following: Clair Huxtable from “The Cosby Show,” Maxine Shaw from “Living Single,” Joan Clayton from “Girlfriends,” Jessica Pearson from “Suits” and her own spinoff “Pearson,” Olivia Pope from “Scandal,” and Annalise Keating from “How to Get Away with Murder.” For thirty-six years, these six women have been our main representation on primetime television. Although, their roles are significantly different, they each demonstrate for us - the 2% of black women attorneys - that whether we are a fixer like Olivia Pope, a defense attorney like Annalise Keating, or a corporate lawyer like Joan Clayton and Jessica Pearson, we can do it all. However, one significant legal role that has been consistently absent from this magically diverse group is that of a black, woman judge.
Now, we are all familiar with Judge Lynn Toler and Judge Mablean who both preside over disputes in “Divorce Court,” as well as Judge Lauren Lake from “Paternity Court”; however, in the realm of fictional sitcom legal drama, no legal queen (that I know of) has comprised the role of a phenomenal black judge. That is until “All Rise” premiered in September of 2019. All Rise stars Simone Missick who portrays the Honorable Judge Lola Carmichael. Not only does Judge Carmichael represent the absence of a black female judge, but also the absence of a black prosecutor (she was a prosecutor prior to taking the bench as a judge).
Although the show closely examines Judge Carmichael’s tenure as a newly appointed black, female judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, it also highlights the journey of a zealous LAWtina public defender, Emily Lopez (portrayed by Jessica Camacho) and Deputy District Attorney, Mark Callan (portrayed by Wilson Bethel). The abundance of diversity and black excellence continues with another interesting storyline as the legal drama also shines a light on Luke Watkins (portrayed by J. Alex Brinson) who is a black man who, in the beginning, was the bailiff in Judge Carmichael’s courtroom and has recently become an attorney after completing his law degree at night. “All Rise” also features a Latina courtroom reporter, Sara Castillo (portrayed by Lindsay Mendez) and a feisty judicial assistant, Sherri Kansky (portrayed by Korean-American actress Ruthie Ann Miles).
Now that we have set the foundation and gotten the introductions and background information out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty about why we love Judge Carmichael, why her representation is so important to the BGDL community, and why she may find herself added to the Phenomenal TV Lawyers BGDL merchandise collection. First and foremost, she represents the black community beautifully – i.e., no negative stereotypes. She rocks her natural hair, she’s married to a supportive, black man (who is an FBI agent), she was raised by both of her parents, and she attended THE Howard University (in the show and in real life). In the show, her attendance to Howard for undergrad was specifically mentioned; however, so far in the series, Judge Carmichael’s law school has not been mentioned. So, for my own selfish and biased purposes, we are going to assume she attended THE Howard University School of Law. Another honorable mention is her wardrobe – it rivals with that of Olivia Pope.
With regards to how she runs her courtroom (without giving away any spoilers), Judge Carmichael often finds herself battling between her duties as judge, her role as a woman, her role as an African American, and most importantly, her role as a BLACK WOMAN. Judge Carmichael often contends with having to decide what is best for her people and fulfilling her responsibility as a compliant judge to maintain a comfortable, political, and professional relationship with the other judicial staff and politicians. Judge Carmichael hears a multitude
of cases ranging from immigration, cyber-crime, assault, murder, drug possession, and more. She thinks outside of the box and stands ten toes down in her methods, decisions, and viewpoints. Although she takes office politics into consideration, she remains swift and fair. She doesn’t accept forced guilty pleas; acknowledges and addresses police corruption; understands that the system was not created equally; and goes an extra mile to not only be a phenomenal judge, but also a friend, mentor, and confidant.
She uses her experience as a black woman to render real justice. She doesn’t color inside the lines in order to “keep the peace,” make friends, or become “one of the boys.” Judge Carmichael understands that justice is not blind. She sees color, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. and uses her power to ensure not only equality, but also equity.
Although “All Rise” is still in its first season, Judge Carmichael has already done the BGDL community proud and deserves a seat at the legal TV auntie table. We've seen the maternal lawyer represented with Clair Huxtable and the zealous maverick in Maxine Shaw. Joan Clayton was our corporate associate representation while Jessica Pearson was the boss of her own corporate law firm. Olivia Pope presented as an attorney and a fixer while Annalise Keating was our representation of not only a passionate defense attorney, but also a law professor. Now we have Lola Carmichael – our prosecutorial and judicial representation. It took thirty-six years – but our televised legal representation is complete.
*Make sure you tune into “All Rise” every Monday evening on CBS. As of April 2020, How to Get Away with Murder will be ending; therefore, it is imperative that we keep the ratings up so that Simone Missick may continue representing us through her portrayal of Lola Carmichael.