[This first-person account was authored by FBA member Sahr Brima]
On Monday, May 20, 2019 I had the honor of being admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar. As I stood before the justices and took my oath in the most powerful Court in this country, tears came unbidden to my eyes. I teared up because I was born in one of the poorest countries in the world and came here escaping a civil war with nothing but the clothes on my back; because I’m an immigrant, a former refugee, a first generation lawyer, and today, one of the few black men and (hopefully not the first) Sierra Leonean to be admitted to practice before the highest Court in this land.
As I took the oath, I thought about Sengbe Pieh, the first Sierra Leonean to stand in this courtroom—represented by former President John Quincy Adams in United States v. Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 518 (1841)— and fight for freedom from slavery before justices of this Court. Pieh won his case and returned to Sierra Leone a free man, but the fight for freedom, dignity, and equality in this country for all people of African descent would continue long after he died.
I thought about John Rock who courageously opposed judicial crimes against humanity and democracy to become the first African American lawyer to stand in this courtroom and be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar in 1865.
I thought about how Pieh and Rock united blacks and whites to put aside comfort and hypocrisy, read their bibles with integrity, and fight that long, ugly, righteous fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I stood on their (and so many others’) massive shoulders as I gave that oath and determined that, by God’s grace, I’ll always strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Many many thanks to my incredible wife, Sarah Brima, and our beautiful babies—I wouldn’t be here without your tireless love and support. My deepest gratitude to the Federal Bar Association for providing this unique opportunity to members, and to my mentors and sponsors—Charlie Nauen of Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP and Matt Woods of Robins Kaplan LLP.
About the Author
Sahr A. M. Brima is an Associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP. His practice includes government enforcement and corporate investigations, commercial litigation, and intellectual property litigation.
About the FBA
Founded in 1920, the Federal Bar Association is dedicated to the advancement of the science of jurisprudence and to promoting the welfare, interests, education, and professional development of all attorneys involved in federal law. Our more than 16,000 members run the gamut of federal practice: attorneys practicing in small to large legal firms, attorneys in corporations and federal agencies, and members of the judiciary. The FBA is the catalyst for communication between the bar and the bench, as well as the private and public sectors. Visit us at fedbar.org to learn more.