Joseph L. Russell was born November 17, 1942, in Birmingham, Alabama to Arlee and Eva Lou Russell. He attended and graduated from Parker High School. Mr. Russell (known to family, friends, and colleagues simply as “Joe”) was a respected Military Judge, California Administrative Law Judge, Attorney at Law par excellence for more than 50 years including private practice and public practice.

Joe earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Government at Howard University in Washington DC. He married Ida Avant in 1966 while she was completing her undergraduate degree at Howard University, and he was completing his first year of law school at Howard University School of Law.

Despite the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka banning segregation in schools, years later and before he became an attorney, Joe was fighting a great legal battle, namely, one for the right of Blacks to attend law school in Alabama. To avoid admitting Joe to study law in Alabama, the State agreed to pay his tuition to attend law school out of state hoping that he would practice law elsewhere. However, Joe had the last laugh on the matter because he used Alabama’s tuition money, obtained an excellent legal education at Howard University Law School, returned to take the Alabama State Bar Examination, and passed on the first attempt.

He was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force where he was promoted to the rank of Captain. After concluding his tour of duty with the Air Force, the young couple relocated to Sacramento, California in 1972 to join fellow law school graduate, the late Judge Jimmy Long.

A partial list of Joe’s community and civic service to the City and County of Sacramento, State of California and the United States of America, include: Membership in the State Bar of California; Membership in the State Bar of Alabama; Membership in the Sacramento County Bar Association; Sacramento County Bar Delegate to the State Bar Conference; Founding Member of the Sacramento Association of Black Attorney (currently Wiley Manuel Bar Association); Membership in and President of the Wiley Manuel Bar Association, Membership in and President of the California Association of Black Lawyers, Membership on numerous California State Bar, Sacramento County Bar and Wiley Manuel Bar Associations Committees; Membership in, Secretary, and President of the Sacramento Legal Aid Society Board of Directors; and Mentor with the Sacramento County Hall of Juvenile Justice.

Joe was licensed and admitted to practice law before the following courts: United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, United States of Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States District Court-Eastern District, United States District Court-Northern District, United States Military Court (Attorney and Judge); United States Military Court of Appeals, and Alabama State Bar Court.

Joseph L. Russell entered peacefully into eternal rest Monday, March 13, 2023.



Whereas, From 1969 through 2006 real pay for the federal judiciary declined approximately twenty-five percent (25%), while real pay of the average American worker increased by about nineteen percent (19%), a difference of about forty-four percent (44%); and,

Whereas, If salaries of the federal judiciary had increased from their actual 1969 level, as did salaries of the average American worker for the same period, federal judges compensation woul now be approximately $261,300; and,

Whereas, the California Association of Black Lawyers agrees with Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court that the declining percentage of the federal judges coming from the private bar, as opposed to t he public sector, creates a serious concern, as does the increasing number of judges resigning from the bench; and,

Whereas, We further agree with the recent New York Times editorial indicating that Chief Justice Roberts “is right to note the link between maintaining an adequate standard of judicial compensation and preserving the quality and independence of the judiciary, and to prod Congress on this issue”; and,

Whereas, We also agree with the Volcher Commission, which concluded a few years ago that “judicial salaries are the most egregious example of the federal compensation policies, “while noting that judicial salaries lag behind the salaries of nonprofit leaders with whom judges might be compared; and,

Whereas, Nearly every African american is familiar with the phrase “all deliberate speed,” the consequences of which exemplify for us the vital for a free and independent judiciary; and

Whereas, In Brown v. Baord, the Supreme Court courageously struck down the doctrine of serparate but equal, despite inertia, if not outright hostility toward that decisionon the part of the executive and legislative branches of government during that era; and,

Whereas, Fortunately, the federal courts have long played a central role in the struggle against racial inequality in America, whether it be in employment, schooling, voting rights or the plethora of other citizenship rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, including diversifying the racial and ethnic makeup of the judiciary; and,

Whereas, Now that the doors of opportunity have been cracked opened and a number of lawyers of color have made great strides career-wise in corporate America, academia and as partners or shareholders in some large law firms, African American lawyers who are among the talented-tenth-those who have successfully private practice or who are the general counsel or in other high-paid positions-can ill afford to make the personal financial sacrifice of opting for a judicial appointment where the salary is only $165,000 annually, which is below that of some first-year law associates right out of law school; and,

Whereas, Attracting and retaining first-rate African American legal talent a concern, and more than a few experienced and well-regarded African American jurists have resigned from the federal bench to take higher paying positions, pointing to a dangerous trend of diminishing numbers of African American jurists on our federal benches at a time when we need more, not fewer, African American judges; and,

Whereas, the California Association of Black Lawyers, founded in 1977, represents Black lawyers, judges, law professors, law students, and other legal professionals throughout California, is vitally concerned about the independence of the judiciary and the importance of recruiting and training African Americans for the federal judiciary, and fair compensation is, indeed, a key component of achieving this objective,

Therefore, Be It Resolved, That the California Association of Black Lawyers strongly supports the Federal Judicial Salary Restoration Act of 2007 and hereby encourages the united States Congress to de-link the salaries of federal judges from members of Congress to ensure judicial salaries are adequate to attract and retain the best and the brightest lawyers in the nation, including African American lawyers.

Be It Further Resolved, That the California Association of Black Lawyers join with the endeavors of other organizations supporting this legislation, which will effectuate a positive change in the manner and method by which all federal judges are compensated, and all members of the California Association of Black Lawyers are hereby urged to contact their respective representatives in Congress expressing their support for this legislation.