Friday, September 23, 2011
Ninth Circuit Appeals Judge Pamela Ann Rymer Dies at Age 70
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Ann Rymer has died at the age of 70, after a two-year battle with cancer, court officials said yesterday.
The judge had been in failing health in recent months, and prior to her death on Wednesday, requested that funeral services not be held.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski remarked yesterday that his late-colleague’s “passion for the law and dedication to the work of the court was inspiring,” noting that Rymer had maintained her calendar since being diagnosed with cancer in 2009.
Senior Circuit Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez recalled that every case Rymer heard was “intrinsically important to her.”
“Finding the right answer for the parties and doing the law correctly were foremost in her mind in every matter,” which “said a lot about who she was and what kind of judge she was,” Fernandez said.
Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Trott praised Rymer as a “brilliant jurist” who was “thoughtful,” “collegial,” and “a model for all judges to emulate.”
Trott further described Rymer as “the most efficient judge in the Ninth Circuit.” She “understood how slow the system can be, and how much our litigants need an answer,” Trott said, so she “got her work out in record time.”
Rymer served on the federal bench at both the appellate and trial levels for more than 28 years. During that time, she sat on more than 800 merits panels and authored 335 panel opinions, court officials said.
Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta said Rymer had “an unparalleled ability to cut to the core of a legal issue and resolve it in a succinct gem of an opinion,” and her “strength, indomitable spirit, and incredible work ethic were barely slowed down by her struggle with illness.”
Rymer last heard oral arguments in July and her most recent opinion was filed in August.
Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said Rymer “was a special person, whose strength, determination, and competitive spirit allowed her to continue to contribute greatly to our court, while battling her disease.”
She said she held dear her memories of her friend’s “clever wit, playful sense of humor, love of sports and all things Stanford, joyful celebration of holidays and, of course, her frogs.”
Ikuta explained that Rymer was known for “her wicked sense of humor and her love of all things froggish.” Rymer maintained a large collection of stuffed frogs un her chambers and at her home, given to her over the years as reminders of a prank she once pulled early in her career, surprising a senior partner with a live amphibian, court officials said.
Rymer was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from Vasser College in 1961 and earned her law degree from Stanford University in 1964, one of only four women in her class.
She then went to work on the Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential bid, and after his defeat, joined Rus Walton & Associates in Los Altos, Calif.
A year later, Rymer moved to Los Angeles and joined Lilick, McHose & Charles. She became the firm’s first female partner in 1973, but left in 1975 to start her own firm, Toy & Rymer.
She was tapped for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, then elevated to the Ninth U.S. Circuit in 1989 by then-President George H.W. Bush.
During her bench career, Rymer was active in judicial governance, serving on the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, from 1998 to 2001, and on the circuit’s Space and Security Committee, from 2005 to 2008.
She was a member of the Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Byron White, also now deceased. The commission produced a comprehensive report in 2000 focusing on possible reorganization of the Ninth Circuit, but its recommendations on the politically sensitive subject, including the creation of three semi-autonomous regional divisions, received little traction in Congress.
Rymer also served on the Ad Hoc Committee on Law Clerk Hiring, which sought to provide some order to the annual process of hiring new law clerks to assist federal judges.
She additionally was on the faculty of the Judicial Clerkship Institute at Pepperdine University, served on the Board of Visitors at the Pepperdine Law School,and chaired the Court Appointed Scientific Experts Advisory Committee of the American Society for the Advancement of Science.
Throughout her adult life, Rymer played tennis competitively and remained active with her alma mater, Stanford University, serving as a member of its Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2001, and as chair of its Academic Policy, Planning and Management Committee and Ad Hoc Committee on Athletics.
She also served on the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors and the university’s Bill Lane Center for the American West.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company