Monday, September 12, 2005
O’Connor Successor Should Be Another Woman and Westerner, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Says
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO — Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has called on President George W. Bush to appoint a woman from west of the Mississippi to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Addressing the California Women Lawyers at the group’s installation and awards dinner, held Thursday evening at the State Bar convention in San Diego, Schroeder said any of four women who have recently led or are soon to lead federal trial court districts based in San Diego and Los Angeles would be good candidates for the job.
Schroeder noted that Irma E. Gonzalez, the current chief judge of the San Diego-based U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, is the third women in a row to lead that court. Gonzalez succeeded Judge Marilyn L. Huff in that role, and Huff’s predecessor was Judge Judith N. Keep.
Keep, who died just under a year ago, was the court’s first female judge and its first woman chief judge. Schroeder said the Southern District was the first federal district court to have three female chief judges in succession.
The Ninth Circuit chief judge noted that Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler is slated to become chief judge of the Los Angeles-based Central District this month, succeeding current Chief Judge Consuelo B. Marshall. Since Marshall, an African American woman, succeeded Judge Terry J. Hatter, the court’s first African American chief judge, that court also will have a string of three “nontraditional” chief judges, Schroeder observed.
Huff, Gonzalez, Marshall or Stotler would be good choices to replace O’Connor, she suggested.
She added that as well as being one of only two women on the court, O’Connor is one of only two westerners. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is from Sacramento.
“Go west, Mr. President, go west,” she urged.
Schroeder did not mention former California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown as a possible choice to replace O’Connor. Brown, like Marshall an African American, left the court recently after being confirmed to sit on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The audience at the CWL dinner included four of the six current members of California’s high court: Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Justices Carlos R. Moreno, Marvin R. Baxter, and Kathryn M. Werdegar. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to nominate a successor to Brown.
The California Judges Association, like the State Bar, met at the San Diego Marriott through the weekend. A statewide meeting of judicial branch officials also took place there.
Schroeder herself, though educated at Swarthmore and the University of Chicago, was born in Colorado and was on the Arizona Court of Appeals when she was appointed to the Ninth Circuit in 1979. She has been chief judge since December 2000.
Schroeder expressed disappointment with Bush’s decision to nominate Judge John G. Roberts of the D.C. Circuit to replace Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died Saturday. Roberts, she said, is a “tabula rasa” as far as his experience of either the western United States or of the lower federal courts goes.
“As far as I can tell from his resume he has never been west of the Mississipi,” Schroeder declared.
Rehnquist earned his law degree at Stanford and practiced in Arizona.
If Roberts is confirmed, she said, the CWL should invite him to speak at its meeting next year to give the organization an opportunity to “educate” him about California’s courts and its women attorneys.
She also told the audience of about 400 that she was dissatisfied with the progress women have made in the legal profession in recent years.
When she went to law school in a class made up almost entirely of men at the University of Chicago, she recalled, “I was treated as a member of a gender that belonged in the kitchen.” Though law school doors are now more open to women, their opportunities in the profession remain restricted, Schroeder asserted, noting that the percentage of women in the federal judiciary has not increased in the past decade.
“We really ought to be getting past honoring the first woman everything and stop having to count,” she declared.
In introducing Schroeder, Fullerton attorney Pearl Gondrella Mann, who was sworn in as CWL president at the dinner, called her a “trailblazer in our profession” who has “been an inspiration to us.”
Mann succeeds Los Angeles Deputy Public Defender Marguerite D. Downing, who is also a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, as CWL president.
The group presented its Faye Stender Award at the dinner to Lilia Velasquez, a San Diego immigration attorney.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company