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Women set to make U.S. judicial history

Latest nominee would make the 4th appeals court an all-female panel
By T.A. BADGER
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO - The 4th Court of Appeals is on track to become the first all-female appellate bench in the nation.

State District Judge Rebecca Simmons of San Antonio was named Thursday to fill a vacancy on the seven-member court. Her nomination by Gov. Rick Perry must be approved by the state Senate, a process expected to take a few weeks.

The unique makeup of the 4th Court, based in San Antonio, may raise some eyebrows, but the court's leader, Chief Justice Alma Lopez, doesn't see it as unusual.

"We women don't think so � we think it's time," Lopez said Friday. "I mean, the men had it for 100 and something years."

What can be expected from an all-woman court?

"You will see a much harder-working court," Lopez said. "Women look at cases much harder and differently than men. Women are stricter on the law, and we concentrate more on our work. And we'll probably get along much better."

Judicial progress
Simmons, a Republican who now presides over the 408th District Court in Bexar County, would replace Paul Green, who last fall was elected to the Texas Supreme Court.

Green could not be reached for comment Friday.

Simmons said having an all-female court was "a remarkable and wonderful thing" that demonstrates how far women have progressed in the Texas judiciary in the past two decades.

"When I began my practice in the early 1980s, I could hope for it," she said. "But it was certainly not something I could foresee."

A boost for females
Simmons, a Baylor Law School graduate, made a strong run in 2000 for Democrat Lopez's seat on the 4th Court. Lopez won the race with 52 percent of the vote.

Simmons was appointed to the 408th District bench in 2003 and elected without opposition last year.

Of her future colleagues, she said, "These are all very hard-working women and capable jurists. That's what got them (to the appeals bench), certainly not their gender."

The 4th Court of Appeals, created in 1893, has appellate jurisdiction over Bexar and 31 other counties. Last year, it handled nearly 1,000 civil and criminal appeals, court clerk Dan Crutchfield said.

While the 4th Court is considered first in its all-female composition, Texas briefly had a version of an all-woman appellate court in 1925.

That year, three female lawyers were named by then-Gov. Pat Neff to a "special" state Supreme Court to hear an appeal of an El Paso land case, the online Texas Almanac shows.

That court was led by Hortense Sparks Ward of Houston, who in 1910 became the first woman to pass the Texas bar exam. The special court was needed because all three members of the state Supreme Court at the time belonged to a fraternal group known as the Woodmen of the World, which was a party to the El Paso case.

The governor had to appoint women to the special court because he could not find male lawyers in the state who didn't belong to the Woodmen group, the Texas Almanac said.
 
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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"You will see a much harder-working court," Lopez said. "Women look at cases much harder and differently than men. Women are stricter on the law, and we concentrate more on our work."

If a man said that about women, he'd be tossed from office.
 
Posts: 764 | Location: Dallas, Texas | Registered: November 04, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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"And we'll probably get along much better."

A former boss of mine used to say, "when ever you have more than 3 women in an office, you're going to have problems."

Of course, I would never subscribe to such a statement, because it is contrary to feminist theory, and therefore not Politically Correct. And I pride myself on being P.C., because it gives me a chance to look down my nose at those of you who are not.

But, I must admit, in my experience it seems to be true.
 
Posts: 685 | Location: Beeville, Texas, U.S.A. | Registered: March 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Gee, and here I was thinking "catfight"!
(hmm...and apparently I wasn't the only one thinking that, Terry)

Elizabeth Foley
Ass't Crim. D.A.
Galveston County
 
Posts: 102 | Location: Galveston, Texas | Registered: September 27, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I would fill the court with the first nine names in the Itasca phone book if we could be assured of no more decisions like Mata and Rodolfo Lopez.
 
Posts: 723 | Location: Fort Worth, TX, USA | Registered: July 30, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I agree that those remarks are very sexist. Even though I have some feminist underpinnings I do not believe you have to put men down in order to bring women up. I think that was a real slam against all of our male justices and I would not blame them if they took offense to her remarks - because it is offensive.

Patricia Dyer
 
Posts: 419 | Location: Abilene, TX USA | Registered: December 16, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I look for the day when we no longer see 'male judges' and 'female judges', and just see 'judges'.

It has gotten better these past twenty-some years, but I guess we're not there yet.

Ann Diamond
 
Posts: 341 | Location: Tarrant County, Texas | Registered: August 24, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Ann, I had that same thought when I read:

Of her future colleagues, she said, "These are all very hard-working women and capable jurists. That's what got them (to the appeals bench), certainly not their gender."

It's a bummer that she feels she has to point that out. I don't think many people still need that reassurance. I figured she got the job because she was a judge and a large portion of the population unsuccessfully voted for her to get that position in the last election.
 
Posts: 764 | Location: Dallas, Texas | Registered: November 04, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I was quite taken aback when I read Judge Lopez' comments. Perhaps, it is time for the good judge to take some mandatory gender diversity training course.

If a male judge had said this I am sure we would have had a Texas-version of the Larry Summers lynch mob.
 
Posts: 28 | Registered: August 22, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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