February 1, 2021
As a young girl growing up in the inner city in New Jersey, I grew up with both of my parents who were gainfully employed in “good jobs” (good pay, benefits, unions, etc.). By no means were we rich but we were not poor either, I guess you would consider us lower middle class.
I did not see any examples of lawyers and especially none of color. As such, it was not my childhood fantasy to become a lawyer as this was not my reality. I cannot remember what I “wanted to be” as a little girl but a lawyer was not it.
The first time I got a glimpse of the justice system was in high school when I saw a classmate chased down by the police, assaulted and arrested. I remember thinking that this was not right but I had limited knowledge as to what could be done about it. Later in high school I joined the debate team and flourished doing what came natural to me. I will say that being part of the debate team was my “introduction” to the possibility of becoming a lawyer.
Fast forward to my decision to attend law school. Again, never did I imagine becoming a judge. This was not even a possibility or desire in my mind. I just wanted to obtain my law degree, practice law and save the world as a lawyer. It wasn’t until I was a 2nd year law student and then later an attorney, did I ever see a judge of color. And it was many years later before I would consider the possibility of being a judge myself. I will note that there was only a handful of judges of color in the Northern Virginia area when I began practicing in 2001!
My experience is a prime example of why it is important for our youth to see positive, successful, and accessible people in their surroundings. If you have never seen a lawyer or judge or doctor or teacher or President or Vice President who looks like you, it is natural to never consider that you could become one of these people. We are all shaped by our surroundings (sometimes for the good, other times for the bad).
Being only the second judge of color to ever sit on the General District Court bench in Prince William County is truly an honor. I do not take for granted that just a few short years ago (less than 5) there had NEVER been a judge of color on this bench. As an attorney and now as a judge, I remain passionate about exposing minority youth to the possibility of being something they never would have imagined (lawyer, judge, clerk, police officer, court interpreter, etc.).
Hon. Turkessa Bynum Rollins
Prince William County General District Court
|| Judge Rollins sits as a General District Court Judge in Prince William County, Virginia. Prior to that she was a Partner at Fullerton & Knowles where she practiced in civil litigation. She attended law school at George Mason University and completed her undergraduate studies at Trenton State College in her home state of New Jersey.