Metropolitan News-Enterprise

 

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

 

Page 7

 

IN MY OPINION (Column)

To Mildred Lillie, Gender Was No Impediment

 

By JO-ANN W. GRACE

 

(The writer is co-publisher of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise. She is a member of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.)

 

Confidentiality is the hallmark of the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. However, I donít think I breach that oath in revealing a name that came up at our meeting this past week-end: Justice Mildred Lillie.

Her name came up as I have heard it come up hundreds of times in numerous settings. It came up quietly.

It came up as evidence of the long way women have come in the profession and as evidence of the effectiveness of perseverance.

Justice Lillie was not one to rail against gender discrimination in the legal profession. She just quietly ignored it. In refusing to acknowledge it, she refused to accept it. It could not stop her. She was a lawyer when women were not lawyers. She was a judge, then a justice, when women were neither.

She would recount a job offer she received early in her career as a lawyer from the Alameda district attorney: legal secretary. She didnít sue, she just declined. And she went on to practice as a lawyer. She would recount the isolation she encountered when first appointed to the trial court and later to the Court of Appeal. But she didnít protest, she just did her job and quietly won acceptance as a colleague.

She epitomizes the effectiveness of the current wisdom: just do it. She did it. And every woman who follows in her footsteps is better for that fact.

 

Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company