In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Ross-Blakley Law Library will have a recurring series of social media posts dedicated the women who helped shape the state of our legal system.
In this episode we will cover the Honorable Justice Mary M. Schroeder. Justice Schroeder is currently a Senior Circuit Judge with her chambers in Phoenix, Arizona and ranks 4th in seniority of the 49 members of the 9th Circuit. Justice Schroeder began her legal career when women attorneys (let alone judges) were a rarity in the United States and was among the Women Trailblazers who inspired a generation of women to begin their legal studies.
Both of Justice Schroeder’s parents were professors at the University of Pittsburg when they met. The couple moved to Boulder, Colorado, got married, and Justice Schroeder was born in 1940. Justice Schroeder recalls that, from an early age, she understood her mother to be a thoughtful feminist. Her father was a bibliophile who owned “mountains of books” and she adored him. Both of Justice Schroeder’s parents were experts in parliamentary procedure and they passed this love of order and the written word to their daughter.
Justice Schroeder received her B.A from Swarthmore College in 1962. While at Swarthmore she received a Ford Foundation grant to go to Washington DC to study legislation. This opportunity ignited a passion for law and politics, however, she knew that as a woman in 1962 she “could go nowhere in government without a law degree from a good school.” Schroeder’s credentials could not be denied, she was accepted at the University of Chicago Law School. Women in law were rare and the University of Chicago still had policies in place that made law school an even more challenging experience than it usually was: there was no housing for women on campus so Schroeder had to walk a mile and a half (in Chicago winters) to class. Women were not even allowed in the dining areas. Schroeder became so sick during her first semester that she collapsed on the eve of her final exams and a classmate had to lobby her professors for extensions. Of the seven women accepted that year, two dropped out due to the grueling conditions. Justice Schroeder persevered and graduated in 1965.
The job market for women in law was bleak when Justice Schroeder entered law school but she graduated the year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so government agencies were running to the top law schools to find high-achieving women candidates to fill their ranks. In 1965 she accepted a job at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Division as a trial attorney where she served until 1970 when she parted for a yearlong clerkship with Justice Jesse A. Udall of the Arizona Supreme Court. After her clerkship she briefly entered the private sector in 1971 for the firm of Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, AZ – where she became a partner in only two years.
Justice Schroeder was elected to serve on the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One from 1975-1979. During that time, Justice Schroeder became Visiting Professor Schroeder here at Arizona State University College of Law where she taught Civil Procedure (1975), Appellate Advocacy (1976), and Discovery (1978). ASU recognized Justice Schroeder with the Distinguished Achievement Award in 1977 and ASU continues to recognize her excellence with Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize.
In 1979 she was nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter. She became the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the 9th Circuit from December 2000-2007 and still serves on the 9th circuit as a Senior Circuit Judge.
Justice Schroeder is a member of the prestigious American Law Institute (the organization that publishes the American Law Reports) where she has been a member of the ALI Council since 1993. Justice Schroeder serves as advisor on the Principles of Government Ethics project and the Restatement Fourth, The Law of Consumer Contracts project. She is also on the Members Consultative Groups for the Restatement Fourth, Foreign Relations Law of the United States project and the Model Penal Code: Sentencing project.
She, like Justice O’Connor, has an impressive list of publications and awards that I will not attempt to summarize but you can see them on her ABA Profile from “Women Trailblazers.”
If you would like to see a breakdown of Justice Schroeder’s rulings on the 9th Circuit, you can see them by following this link with your Westlaw credentials.
The ABA has a wonderful series of oral transcripts with Justice Schroeder where she is interviewed long-form about her early life and distinguished legal career.
Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian