Monday, February 7, 2011
Chief Justice, Edmon Pay Tribute to Minority and Women ‘Trailblazers’
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
California’s new chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and the Los Angeles Superior Court’s first female presiding judge, Lee S. Edmon, both credited the women and persons of color who achieved milestones in the history of the legal profession with helping them become pioneers as well.
The chief justice, a Filipina whose appointment created a female-majority on the high court for the first time in history, said individuals preceding her had formed “the bridge that permits me to stand here in front of you” at the Trailblazers of the Bar event Thursday at Southwestern Law School. Cantil-Sakauye attended the event to pay tribute to Edmon, one of the evening’s honorees.
Edmon “brought tremendous change and a voice to the judicial branch,” Cantil-Sakauye said. Hearing others describe Edmon with the words “inspire, wisdom, courage and hard-driving,” in a video tribute preceding her remarks, the chief justice said, “in the back of my mind, I heard glass shattering.”
As the audience laughed, Cantil-Sakauye turned to Edmon and cheered, “there went that ceiling Lee!”
Edith Matthai, a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, took the podium next, remarking that “every woman in this town is proud as heck” of Edmon, as she presented a plaque to the jurist.
She told Edmon: “You’re not only a trailblazer, you inspire everyone who follows your path.”
Edmon, however, downplayed the praise heaped upon her, claiming she “had it pretty easy” since she “didn’t face a time when the profession and the bench were almost exclusively a male domain.” She contrasted her career with those of others, such as former Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Shirley Hufstedler, who was the first woman to serve on that court and the only woman sitting on a federal appellate bench in the United States for many years.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow of the Central District of California, the first female president of the State Bar and the second woman to serve as president of the County Bar; Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, the first woman ever to serve as presiding justice of a California appellate court; and Patricia Phillips, the first female president of LACBA, Edmon said, “not only blazed new trails, they opened doors, and then they reached back and helped those of us who followed.”
Edmon insisted that “each of us has the obligation to reach out and mentor those who follow” just as those women had done for her.
She concluded by paraphrasing a quote from Robert F. Kennedy:
“Each time a man, or I would add, a woman, stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he, or she, sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance, and I would add, maybe break a glass ceiling or two.”
Attorney Samuel L. Williams, the first African-American president of LACBA, and of the State Bar of California, was honored posthumously at the event, which was presented by LACBA’s Senior Lawyers Section and co-sponsored by the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Japanese American Bar Association, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, John M. Langston Bar Association, Korean American Bar Association and Mexican American Bar Association.
The emcee for the evening, MetNews editor/co-publisher Roger M. Grace, explained the occasion was timed to coincide with John Marshall Day, which celebrates the birth of the fourth chief justice of the United States and is intended to be an annual event paying tribute to a living trailblazer and honoring another posthumously.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company