Judge James Dean

Judge James Dean

judge james deanIn 1888, James Dean was elected to be the county judge in Key West, Monroe County. A graduate of Howard University College of Law, he is said to be the first black judge to have been elected in the South post Reconstruction.

Dean was born on February 14th, 1858 in Ocala, Florida, and attended Cookman Institute and Howard University. He became a Master at Law at Howard in 1884, graduating as the class valedictorian, and was admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court in the same year. He was elected County Judge on November 6th, 1888, and took office in January of 1889.

Less than eight months after Dean began serving as judge, Governor Francis Fleming ordered him to resign. He had been accused of issuing a marriage license to an allegedly interracial couple, Antonio Gonzalez and Annie Maloney; both were actually of black Cuban descent, meaning the marriage was lawful at the time. Judge Dean protested his innocence in a series of letters to the governor. His supporters in Key West sent a resolution of protest with five pages of signatures, to no avail.

Governor Fleming issued an executive order suspending Judge Dean which stated that the suspension would remain in effect until the next adjournment of the Senate, unless the Senate decided to remove him. The Senate adjourned in 1891 without removing Judge Dean which meant that his suspension would have expired, but Governor Fleming had already appointed a successor.

Dean fought his removal but was unsuccessful. He eventually moved to Jacksonville, where he died in 1914.

On February 26, 2002, Governor Jeb Bush issued a proclamation reinstating his judgeship.