On Friday August 14, 2015, the investiture ceremony for Nirlaine Tallandier Smartt as St. Lucie County’s newest judge was a celebration of the American dream. Smartt, 48, is the first black judge at the county or circuit level in the 19th Circuit, which encompasses Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. With no judges of Hispanic descent in the circuit, Smartt is also the only minority judge.
Court administrator Thomas Genome said, “Historical records like that are hard to come by,” but he said the only other black judge in the circuit he knew of was Ralph Flowers, who sat as a Fort Pierce city judge in the late 1960s to early 1970s before a 1972 state constitutional change eliminated city courts.
- Smartt was appointed in June by Gov. Rick Scott to replace Judge Thomas J. Walsh, who retired May 31. Smartt actually began working in July as a county judge in the St. Lucie County Court Annex.
- Smartt was Born in Haiti and raised from age 4 in Nyack, New York. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at the State University of New York-Oswego, then worked for her U.S. congressman for one year before earning her law degree at Vanderbilt University.
- She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at the State University of New York-Oswego, then worked for her U.S. congressman for one year before earning her law degree at Vanderbilt University.
- Smartt was a prosecutor in Hillsborough County for about two years, then worked for an insurance defense firm before starting a law practice with a partner.
- Smartt worked as a prosecutor in 2009 and worked as a volunteer for four months until a job opened.
Circuit Judge William Roby, a former chief judge, said when he talked about Smartt with others in the courts system during her application for the bench, they spoke of all those qualities and “no one thought of her as that black lady.”
In his remarks during her investiture ceremony, Smartt’s brother Dukens Tallandier said it is a true testament to the United States “that a daughter of Haiti could be here today. It shows that with drive and determination, anyone can achieve what they want.”
Smartt, speaking to the many people in the overflow crowd who helped, encouraged or carried her along the way, said, “Thank you for helping this little Haitian girl achieve the American dream.”