I appreciate this opportunity to recall the most Honorable Shirley Mount Hufstedler, a woman whose bright mind was well matched by her caring heart. Shirley Hufstedler had several careers in or involving the law--skilled practitioner, sage judge at trial and on appeal, fine teacher, perceptive scholar, and innovative member of the President's cabinet at the birth of a new department. In each of these roles, her performance sparkled with intelligence and humanity. She was the best among lawyers and judges, the most dedicated, the least self-regarding. The example she set inspired other women, legions of them, to aspire to, and achieve, satisfying lives in the law.
The future Judge Hufstedler graduated at the top of her 1949 class at Stanford Law School, where she cofounded the Stanford Law Review. According to her classmate, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Shirley's notes were in great demand as aids in preparing for exams. After a decade of private practice, Shirley served a term as Special Legal Consultant to the Attorney General of California in the complex Colorado River litigation, a case long pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Hufstedler's judicial career began with her appointment to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1961, a judgeship to which she was elected the following year. In 1966, she was appointed to the California Court of Appeal. Two years later, in 1968, President Johnson appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It was a history-making appointment. Before then, only one woman had ever been appointed to an Article III appellate post, Florence Ellinwood Allen, appointed to the Sixth Circuit by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934. Shirley was then just nine years old. Judge Allen retired in 1959. No woman served again at the federal appellate level until Judge Hufstedler's appointment.
A quick change was made upon her 1968 confirmation. Engraved commissions for federal judges contained the pronouns "him" and "his." Those engraved pronouns were deleted; in their place, "her" and "hers" were written in by hand. As a Ninth Circuit jurist, Judge Hufstedler wrote opinions notably clear and concise. Ever mindful of the people law exists to serve, she never tailored her opinions to please the home crowd, or the White House crowd.
I first met the beautiful Judge Hufstedler in 1971, when she delivered the annual Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Lecture at the Bar...