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Alpha Rho Alumni Pays Tribute To Our Fallen Brother -- Hon. Joseph Jerome Farris (Fall 1948)


Alpha Rho Chapter Brother the Honorable Joseph Jerome Farris entered Omega Chapter on Tuesday morning, July 23, 2020, at his home in Seattle, Washington. He was 90 years old.

Brother Farris, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, was nominated for appointment by President Jimmy Carter on July 12, 1979. Judge Farris took Senior Status on March 4, 1995. In Hirabayashi v. United States (1987), Farris sat on the circuit panel that by coram nobis unanimously vacated an exclusion order conviction that had been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States during the World War II wartime internment of Japanese Americans.

Pictured above:  Judge Farris, at far right, with his State of Washington Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals colleagues.

Judge Farris was born in Birmingham, Alabama on March 4, 1930. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree with department honors in mathematics at Morehouse College in 1951, then added a Master of Social Work degree at Atlanta University in Georgia. He later earned his Juris Doctor degree at the University of Washington, where he was a member of the Law Review, the Oval Club, and served as president of the Law School Student Body and is a member of the Order of the Coif. He worked as a Juvenile Probation Officer while earning his law degree.

Pictured above:  Brother Farris at far right during the 2009 Morehouse College "Candle In The Dark" induction ceremony.

He was recognized by his undergraduate alma mater, Morehouse College, with the prestigious "Bennie Award In Achievement" in 2009, where he was also a longtime member of The Board of Trustees. He also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the college in 1978.

Pictured above:  Judge Farris, seated second from the left, was one of the first 12 appointees to the Washington State Court of Appeals in 1969.

Judge Farris served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in 1989. He is a past president of the University of Washington Board of Regents on which he served for 12 years. He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College from 1999 to 2014, and remains a Trustee Emeritus. He served as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Harvard Law School from 1996 to 2005 and recently served two terms on the Judicial Wellness III Committee for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Farris is a former trustee of the Seattle-King County Bar Association and former chairman of the Washington Council of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Pictured above:  Brother Farris, third from the left, joins Morehouse College leaders as they recognize noted American writer Alex Haley during the May, 1978 commencement ceremony. (l-r: Academic Dean Willis Hubert, William T. Gossett, Farris, President Hugh M. Gloster, Haley, Mrs. Hobart C. Jackson, and Rev. Samuel Berry McKinney).


He was a member of the University of Washington Law School Foundation, the Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services, the Seattle Youth Commission, the King County Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, and a delegate to the White House Conference on Children and Youth. He has served on the boards of the Seattle Urban League, Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center (SOIC), United Way, and Totem Council, Girl Scouts of America.

Pictured above:  Trustee Farris, at center, greets United States President Barack H. Obama, who delivered the May, 2013 commencement address at Morehouse College.

He taught sixth grade Sunday School class for several years and has been active in many civic and fraternal organizations.  After graduating from law school, during the early years of his practice, Judge Farris remained in Seattle and worked for the law firm of Weyer, Roderick, Schroeter and Sterne. Within five years he and Leonard Schroeter started their own firm known as Schroeter and Farris. 

In 1969 he was appointed as a judge on the Washington State Court of Appeals for Division I. He was unanimously elected the first presiding Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the term January 1977 to January 1978 and served as Chief Judge of Division I for the years 1977 and 1978. He served on that court from August 1969 until his appointment to the United States Court of Appeals in 1979.

Pictured above:  Hon. J. Jerome Farris, Senior Circuit Judge; Hawaii Chapter President Paul Alston, Esq.; Hon. Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judge; and Hon. Dorothy W. Nelson, Senior Circuit Judge.

Judge Farris has served on the Executive Committee and Judicial Wellness Committee for the Ninth Circuit. He completed two terms of service on the United States Supreme Court Judicial Fellows Commission and one on the United States Judicial Conference Committee on International Judicial Relations. He is a past Chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the Senior Lawyers Division Council of the American Bar Association, a former secretary of the Executive Committee of the ABF Board of Directors and a former chairman of the Appellate Judges’ Conference of the ABA.

Judge Farris is a past president of the University of Washington Board of Regents, on which he served for 12 years; he also served on the Board of Trustees of the Harvard Law School Board of Visitors.

Pictured above:  Brother Farris celebrated his 90th birthday on March 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia with family and friends. (Photo credit: Janelle Farris)

Judge Farris, a widower, was married for many years to Jean Shy Farris whom he had met while they were students in Atlanta. They made their home in Seattle and raised two daughters. He is a founding member of Alpha Omicron Boule of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, initiated in Fall 1948 into the Alpha Rho Chapter at Morehouse College.


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