Amalya Lyle Kearse is a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Kearse was born June 11, 1937, in Vauxhall, New Jersey. Her parents encouraged Kearse to develop her considerable intellectual skills. Her father, the postmaster in her hometown, wanted to become a lawyer, but the Depression prevented him from pursuing his dream. Her mother was a medical doctor who later became an administrator in an antipoverty program. Kearse attended Wellesley College, where she earned her bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1959. "I can trace [the decision to become a litigator] back to a course in INTERNATIONAL LAW at Wellesley," she said. "There was a MOOT COURT, and I found that very enjoyable." Kearse then enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School, and she graduated cum laude in 1962.
Kearse began her legal career with the Wall Street firm of Hughes, Hubbard, and Reed. After seven years of distinguished and diligent work, she was named a partner, becoming the first black female partner in a major Wall Street firm. Her colleagues have praised her for her incisive analytical skills. When asked about Kearse's qualifications, a senior partner at the Hughes, Hubbard firm said, "She became a partner here not because she is a woman, not because she is a black, but because she is just so damned good?no question about it."
Kearse's outstanding talents eventually came to the attention of President JIMMY CARTER, who named her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1979. She is the first black woman to serve on that court. During her tenure, she has decided many influential cases. In 1980, she wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Taborda, 635 F.2d 131 (2d Cir. 1980), a case that concluded that the use of a high-powered telescope to observe drug activity inside an apartment without a warrant constituted an unreasonable search and violated the FOURTH AMENDMENT. In other cases, she joined the majority in upholding a New York state ban on SCHOOL PRAYERS (Brandon v. Board of Education of Guilderland Central School District, 635 F.2d 971 [2d Cir. 1980]) and helped overturn a lower court's ruling that Vietnam veterans could sue the manufacturers of Agent Orange for alleged damage (In re "Agent Orange" Product Liability Litigation, 635 F.2d 987 [2d Cir. 1980]).
"THE VERY FACT THAT A PERSON IS IN HIS OWN HOME RAISES A REASONABLE INFERENCE THAT HE INTENDS TO HAVE PRIVACY, AND IF THAT...