Woman on a Wall


Before finishing about my AAAL conference, I must take note of an important event this week:  Judge Sandra Lynch of the First Circuit is having her portrait hanging ceremony this week.

This was a week that I thought a lot about judges, their importance and their roles.  I flew to Chicago over the weekend for the retirement ceremony for the judge I clerked for, Hon. John F. Grady, finally ending his 39 years of service at the age of 86.  He was just lovely to work for, had some great decisions (check out Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, Inc., 581 F. Supp. 821, rev’d, 742 F.2d 1081 (7th Cir. 1984)), and all the ex-clerks spoke about what an important role he had played in their lives.  His clerks are all over the country, are academics, practitioners, the Chief of Staff for Michelle Obama (my co-clerk Tina Tchen), and come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  But each one was affected by the judge’s decency, thoughtfulness, knowledge and character.

As I flew there and back, I read a fairly recent John Grisham book, Racketeer, where, aside from the usual free and easy treatment of actual law, he cavalierly has a federal district court judge engage in corrupt practices.  He knows better.  There have been a very few bad apples, but this sort of plot is so out-of-line it just leaves me cold.  Instead, think about reading The Hanging Judge, by a sitting senior district court judge, Michael Ponsor.  It’s fiction in the Grisham mold, but he gets the law right.

Instead of writing thrillers or lying on a beach somewhere reading bad Grisham novels, Judge Lipez of our First Circuit, having taken senior status, is writing law review articles.  His latest one, in the Touro Law Review is entitled Is There a Place for Religion in Judicial Decision-Making.  It’s very personal and very easy to read, and I recommend it to everyone.  Basically, it’s about where a judge should draw the line between being the person they are, Jew, Muslim, atheist or otherwise, and stepping over the line between the separation of Church and State.

Finally, back to that portrait.  I have blogged about what a great judge Sandra Lynch is on every level, and so won’t repeat that again here.  I just want to take note of what an important event this is, which I hope she recognizes.

For almost 30 years I have been going to the First Circuit to argue.  I have sat in the court room, wearing my little black suit and conservative heels, watching the other arguments and waiting.  Clocking that time, I have stared and stared at walls of judges’ portraits – good judges, all, but all white men.

Now, for the first time, there will be someone who looks like me on that wall. 

It’s about time.  And it couldn’t have started with a better representative.