Natalie Baskin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1930, during the Great Depression. She moved to Miami with her parents in 1948. Not long after, at age nineteen, she married Leonard Baskin and later became the mother of three children: Karen, Maurice and Jill. She studied art and became an accomplished painter and photographer while raising her children. Before entering law school, she ran an art gallery and enjoyed uncommon hobbies for a woman of her generation, including competitive tournament pistol shooting.
Although Judge Baskin did not view herself as a feminist, she was on the leading edge of the movement for gender equality. In the early 1960s, at the age of thirty-two, she enrolled in law school at the University of Miami at a time when there were few female law students anywhere. She was one of only four women in her law school class and one of only six women law students in the entire school. She earned her law degree in 1965.
Overcoming difficulties in finding employment as an attorney, Judge Baskin engaged in private practice from 1965 until 1974, handling criminal, civil, family and administrative cases and appeals. She was admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court. While in practice, she was a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
She was elected to the Dade County Circuit Court in 1974 and during the next six years she served in the criminal, general jurisdiction and appellate divisions. From time to time, she was invited to sit as an associate judge with the Fourth District Court of Appeal. In 1980, Governor Bob Graham appointed Judge Baskin as the first woman to serve on the Third District. She consistently earned high ratings for judicial competence in Dade County Bar Association judicial polls. Judge Baskin was retained in office by the voters in elections held in 1982 and 1988.
In 1987, Judge Baskin was one of the first members appointed to the Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Commission. That commission issued a comprehensive report in 1990 documenting and proposing partial solutions for the effects upon women of discriminatory practices throughout the justice system. Judge Baskin authored important opinions protecting individual rights and personal safety. For example, in 1994, Judge Baskin authored the majority opinion in the case that upheld the right of airline flight attendants to sue for damages as a result of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. In 1991, Judge Baskin authored the majority opinion in the case that led to the abolition of common law interspousal tort immunity for abusive conduct. She concurred in a 1985 opinion that the use of peremptory challenges to exclude prospective jurors on the basis of race was constitutionally impermissible.
Judge Baskin’s professional service activities included membership on the Appellate Court Rules Committee. She was an ad hoc member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and was elected president of the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges in 1992 and 1993. She attended the Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, and earned her certificate from that program.
On March 11, 1996, while still serving as a Third District judge, Judge Baskin passed away. Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge Winifred Sharp called Judge Baskin “one of the best women’s voices for fairness and equality in the law and in the judicial system.”