Eleanor Schockett died Saturday, January 12, 2008, at Mission Hospital in Asheville,
Eleanor was a close friend, a colleague, and an unbeatable
advocate for sensible thinking in a world that is desperately in need of
I had the pleasure of spending several weeks in the company of Judge
Schockett over the last four years. Eleanor joined LEAP by email, July 2,
“I retired from the circuit bench Dec.31, 2002. (I served two six-year
terms). I was referred to this organization by John Chase of the November
organization. My interest in this subject dates back to 1958 when I wrote my
senior paper at Tulane Law School on the administration of the drug laws in
the United States. Matters have only gotten worse in the intervening years
as I observed when in the Criminal Division of the Court. The main reason I
did not take senior judge status is that I wanted to have my civil rights
back, so I could speak out on political as well as judicial issues. I am in
full agreement with your mission statement and would like to do whatever I
can to contribute to a more responsible drug policy.”
It wasn’t very long before we realized we must recruit her as a
member of the LEAP Board of Directors. Eleanor sat through what seemed at
the time to be endless hours of board meetings as we shaped our
organization. Her advice was always clear and concise. On many occasions she
saved us from making major mistakes.
In those four years, Eleanor never turned down a venue arranged to present
LEAP’s goal to end drug prohibition. She was absolutely tireless. I had the
honor of traveling with Eleanor and retired vDetective Chief Superintendent
of Scotland Yard, Eddie Ellison, to New Zealand. In two-weeks we made 90
presentations in that country. Then we were off to a week at the
International Harm Reduction Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
My wife accompanied us on that trip and became another of Eleanor’s many
friends. Eleanor visited us at our home in Medford, Massachusetts many times.
Eleanor fought cancer for the last year, but after a regime of chemotherapy
thought she had beaten it. She never complained about her own plight. She
told me how ridiculous it was that doctors in North Carolina would charge
her $105 per pill to alleviate the nausea caused by her chemo treatment when
a simple marijuana cigarette would have accomplished the same thing — without
the side affects. She said that just made her more determined to work to end
prohibition of all drugs.
Judge Schockett traveled to New Orleans last December to join 1,200 of
us at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. She spoke on one of
the panels and helped us plan our strategy for our continued struggle.
We will all miss her wonderful sense of humor and her biting wit. She was never shy about stating her views on drug policy or about standing up for people in need. When I think of all I have learned from Eleanor and all the ways she has touched my life I feel very sad to have lost her, and to have only had a relatively short amount of time with her. I can not imagine how her family feels after knowing Eleanor for a lifetime. Without her LEAP will not be the same. But I can almost hear Eleanor repeating Joe Hill’s, famous words as he faced his eminent death, “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.
We will miss her.
Jack A. Cole
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Memorial Service will be held Sunday, January 27, 2008, 11:00 a.m. at Temple
Judea, 5500 Granada Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida 33146.
Eleanor’s Sister, Jackie Leone, requested that in lieu of flowers, donations
be sent to the
LEAP Education Fund, because Eleanor told her sister that she wanted to dedicate her life to ending drug prohibition.
I first met Eleanor in the Los Angeles airport when she, my husband Jack Cole, and I, were going to New Zealand. She was about my height, and she was dressed to the nines: jeans jacket with bold embroidery, chunky jewelry, multi-colored fingernails (fuscia, turquoise, and other such colors), and bright lipstick. She was warm, very talkative, and very opinionated. I’m no shrinking violet either, and after a few minutes we were in heated argument about a political issue having nothing to do with LEAP – she on one side, I, on the other. At some point we simply agreed to disagree. Our differences faded in the face of Eleanor’s decency, her sense of humor, her passionate devotion to LEAP, to the Board members and especially to Jack; her brilliant articulateness in speaking from her experience as a judge, her tough integrity, and the investment of her remaining years to the cause of drug legalization.
After she became ill I called her a number of times and was always struck by her cheerfulness, lack of self-pity, and confidence that she would probably conquer the disease – but, if not, her acceptance of inevitability: “What can I do about it? And so why should I worry about it?”
A month ago, in New Orleans, we took a short walk and had lunch. She was very tired and had to stop for minutes at a time. She regretted that chemotherapy seemed to have made her “spacey,” and told me that if she blanked over a word or a thought, not to mind. She was very articulate and matter-of-fact in her communication of this. It was impossible to feel sorry for her.
LEAP has lost a unique, tough, piercing and vigorous intellect. It has lost the only woman speaker and board-member it has had (Eleanor might not like my singling this out about her; we had an argument or two about feminism, as well.) I am bitterly sorry that she is gone. She was unique. While LEAP will go on to organize and, hopefully, find other courageous, smart women from law enforcement, it will never have another Judge Schockett.
Judge Eleanor Schockett interviewed by Dean Becker at the International Drug Policy Conference, New Orleans, LA, December 6, 2007.
ELEANOR SCHOCKETT, 70
Circuit judge known as fierce and independent
BY Susannah A. Nesmith, Miami Herald (FL) Friday January 18, 2008, snesmith@MiamiHerald.com
Eleanor Levingston Schockett, an outspoken and sometimes controversial former Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge, died of a stroke Saturday in a hospital in Asheville, N.C. She was 70.
Schockett was elected to the bench in 1990 after 30 years as a family law attorney. She served two terms before retiring in 2002.
With a fierce and, some say, fearless personality, Schockett could be a polarizing force on the bench. But friends and colleagues remember her as a very genuine person who always did what she felt was right, even when everyone around her said she was wrong.
”This lady infuriated people,” said veteran Miami lawyer Burton Young.
”She may have been wrong, but this judge was never in doubt,” he added. “I liked her. She was fearless.”
She wasn’t always popular. The Cuban American Bar Association demanded her resignation in 1997 because of three off-the-cuff remarks she made from the bench that the association said stereotyped Hispanics. The association acknowledged that her rulings never showed any bias, and she wasn’t disciplined.
She also drew protests from a group of women who felt she favored men in family court. Again, she was cleared of any bias in her rulings after men complained that they also felt victimized by her.
”There were several, or more than several, occasions when people complained to the [Judicial Qualifications Commission], but she always came out on top,” said Senior Judge Richard Feder, who was Schockett’s administrative judge in family court. “They never found anything wrong.”
He recalled a hard worker.
”She was a tough lawyer, very independent,” he said. “When she became a judge, she didn’t leave her independence back at the office.”
Circuit Judge Judith Kreeger said Schockett gave her valuable advice when Kreeger first took the bench.
”I had not practiced in the field of family law as a lawyer,” she said. “She was always very generous with her time if I had questions.”
With a penchant for colorful robes and, later in life, different colored nail polish on each finger, Schockett didn’t take herself too seriously.
”She would read the funnies, like, first thing in the day to make sure she got her bearings and perspective,” recalled family law attorney Javier Perez-Abreu. “She had a great sense of humor.”
Criminal defense lawyer Scott Saul remembers Schockett as slightly eccentric. She kept an exercise machine in her chambers and would discuss cases, in her robe, while she exercised, he said.
”I can only respect that,” he said.
He also remembers her as a particularly compassionate judge.
”Things went a little slowly in her court. She took more time to treat everyone like humans,” he said.
After Schockett retired, she became an activist against what she saw as America’s failed drug policy. She joined the board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to advocate for the decriminalization of drugs.
”She didn’t pull her punches when it came to anything she thought was harming people,” said LEAP Executive Director Jack Cole, who traveled to New Zealand with her on a speaking tour. “She thought the most important thing she could ever do would be to end drug prohibition.”
Along those lines, Schockett’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the LEAP Education Fund, 121 Mystic Ave., Medford, MA 02155.
”That’s what she would have wanted,” said her older sister, Jackie Leone. “Most judges have nice receptions after their investiture. Eleanor didn’t. She took that money and gave it to the homeless shelter. That’s the way she was.”
Born in Mississippi and raised in Alabama, Schockett attended the University of Alabama and received her law degree from Tulane University in New Orleans.
In addition to her sister, she is survived by two children, Sabrina Smith of Dunedin, and David Schockett of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren, Tyler Smith, Julie Smith and Audrey Schockett.
A memorial service for Schockett is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 27 at Temple Judea, 5500 Granada Blvd. in Coral Gables.
Eleanor Schockett was born in Ruleville, Miss. and raised in
Birmingham, Ala. She received her B.A from the University of Alabama with majors in History, Political Science and Law. She then headed to New Orleans, La. to complete her legal studies and receive a J.D. from Tulane Law School.
She became interested in Drug Policy when she wrote her senior paper on the administration of US drug laws and knew something was terribly wrong. She maintained her interest on the issues first in the ’60′s as the wife of a owner/pharmacist and then in the ’70′s as a guest talkmaster on WKAT’s Talk of Miami.
Eleanor was elected to the Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County Florida and began her service in January 1991. Although the latter 15 years of her private practice were devoted to Family Law, her first assignment was to the Criminal Court. By the time she left the Bench on December 31, 2002 she had served in the Family and General Jurisdiction divisions as well. In all three divisions she saw the havoc wrought by a failed drug policy. Her particular concerns were the erosion of personal liberties of all our citizens. She believes if the American people learn just how bad things are, they will be changed for the better. She vowed to speak out and appreciated the opportunity.