June 28, 2021
Feb 7, 2023
Photo: Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership
BOSTON – At a time when surveys reveal declining trust in our courts, a new book, Her Honor – Stories of Challenge and Triumph from Women Judges, offers reasons for hope and even pride.
Her Honor features a collection of personal stories by and about some of the country’s most respected female judges. Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Legal Correspondent at Slate and author of Lady Justice, authored the foreword.
The 25 judges featured in Her Honor are from all levels of the state and federal courts, including Chief Judges and two Supreme Court Justices. Each chapter includes nuanced examples of challenges and successes, including the inequality, bias, nomination struggles, and pressures they faced and overcame in their lives leading up to and during their time on the bench.
Among the stories not previously told include the orchestrated efforts to pressure Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to undermine Roe v. Wade soon after her arrival on the Court. In describing how a “cabal” of law clerks with roots in the Federalist Society hoped to influence the Justice’s votes on cases involving reproductive rights, Marci Hamilton, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former law clerk to Justice O’Connor, shares details that demonstrate the integrity and strength of the Justice:
“Justice O’Connor may have been the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, but those who underestimated her intellect, her honor to her judicial oath, and her adherence to the rule of law would quickly learn they were mistaken to do so.”
Professor Hamilton’s examples of the Justice’s ability to resist intentionally exerted pressure is emblematic of the stories of grit and courage demonstrated by every judge featured in this book.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen, the Executive Director of the national organization, Lawyers Defending American Democracy and President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, edited the book and has this to share:
“Her Honor demonstrates how the best of our judges share a passion for ensuring an accessible and fair system of justice, without a political agenda. They reveal a deep compassion for humanity along with an abiding reverence for the law, respecting precedent but acting with courage if the law offers a way forward. Their moving stories and the difficulties they encountered will be all too recognizable by those currently experiencing challenges and biases in their own career.”
Editorial reviews that appear on the cover and inside pages of Her Honor
“Some of the judges profiled in this remarkable, and remarkably infuriating, volume are household names (Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg); others are women you've likely never heard of. Their stories are unique but also universal--tales of women who endured slights, barriers and outright humiliation unimaginable to later generations of female attorneys, but who persevered with grit, humor and intelligence. All helped shape the world women in the law face today—hardly perfect but dramatically changed—and this book offers fitting testimony to their contributions.”
Washington Post columnist
“This is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. The essays, by and about twenty-five inspirational women judges, are beautifully written and compelling accounts of lives filled with amazing accomplishments. They are stories of women who overcame great obstacles – sexism and racism and antisemitism and homophobia and poverty and so much else – to rise to the top of the legal profession and make a huge difference. I want all law students and lawyers to read it, and for that matter, all high school and college students who might be thinking of a career in the law.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
“I wish I had a book like this – full of the wisdom and testimony, trials and triumphs of brilliant and accomplished women jurists – when I was a young law student who still didn’t fully understand the barriers I’d face as a young, Black woman in the legal profession and beyond. Their stories of grace and tenacity in the face of obstacles are beyond inspiring. And their focus on mentorship is so important. Their lived stories shake the ground and pave the way for all of us.”
Kimberly Atkins Stohr
Senior Opinion Writer and Columnist
The Boston Globe
Inaugural columnist, The Emancipator
“This remarkable volume of 25 essays practically oozes with perseverance and pride—with a dizzying array of our most accomplished women jurists recounting the stories of both familiar and less-well-known lawyers who were each, in their own rights, trailblazers. The stories are remarkable as much for what they have in common as for how they differ, and they provide page after page of inspiration not just to the next generation of aspiring trailblazers, but to those looking for reminders of how injustices in the legal system—and in the legal practice—are not necessarily a permanent feature. Indeed, the identities and resumes of the authors of these essays only proves the point.”
Stephen Vladeck, Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law, and author of The Shadow Docket
“When women commit, we are all better for it. And the commitment of women in the legal arena, especially on the bench, is essential. This book shares the challenging, compelling and very human stories of some of the country’s most respected female judges and leaves us not just with a sense of the importance of their work but also of the importance of ensuring another generation of women follows in their footsteps. I loved learning more about these women and could have kept on reading more!”
Joyce White Vance, Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Law, University of Alabama School of Law and legal analyst for NBC and MSNBC
“As someone who’s often critical about the progress of women in the legal profession, I found this book to be a much needed antidote to my cynicism. It’s an illuminating, honest look at how female judges overcame substantial obstacles with grit and grace—and triumphed.”
Opinion Columnist, “Unfiltered”
“Her Honor is a breathtaking collection of the stories of pioneering women judges who made the nation’s courts look more like the nation they serve. Their stories are at once humbling for the obstacles they fought and inspiring for their determination and dedication to the rule of law.”
Prof. Steve Wermiel, American University Washington College of Law, co-author Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion
“Her Honor is a magnificent anthology of the professional and personal reflections of some of the country’s leading women jurists. The chapters in this volume bring to life the challenges, the pain, the joys, and the resiliency of female judges representing three generations of judicial icons. These stories will surely inspire not only the next cohort of women lawyers and judges, but anyone interested in promoting gender equality in the American legal profession and the United States more broadly.”
Ajay K. Mehrotra, Research Professor, American Bar Foundation, and William G. and Virginia K. Karnes Research Professor, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law