Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Ninth Circuit’s First Female Judge Dies at 90

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Judge Shirley Hufstedler, the first woman to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, died earlier this week at the age of 90.

Hufstedler had been in declining health for some time, according to a statement issued Thursday by the Ninth Circuit.

Nominated by President Lyndon Johnson, Hufstedler came to the Ninth Circuit in 1968. She was the second woman to be appointed to a federal appellate court - the Ninth Circuit's first - and for most of her 11-year tenure on the court she was the nation's only female federal appellate judge, the court said.

Hufstedler left the bench in 1979 to become the nation's first U.S. Secretary of Education under President Jimmy Carter. She left Washington when Carter did and returned to private life, becoming a partner in her husband's law firm and later practiced with Morrison & Foerster for more than 20 years.

"The legal profession has lost a great friend and champion," Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas said Friday. "Whether she was hearing cases as a judge or arguing them as an advocate before this court, she was a model of professionalism for all of us."

Born in Denver, Hufstedler did her undergraduate work at the University of New Mexico and got her law degree from Stanford Law School in 1949.

Despite graduating at the top of her law school class, no firms would hire the female lawyer. After doing research and writing briefs for other lawyers for a time, she started her own practice in 1951.

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown appointed Hufstedler to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1961, where she served until being appointed to the state appeals court in 1966.

Hufstedler is survived by her husband Seth, her son Steve, and four grandchildren.

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