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Patricia Wald, First Woman to Preside Over D.C. Appeals Court, Dies at 90

The New York Times: “Patricia M. Wald, who was the first woman to serve as chief judge of the federal appeals court in Washington and who later wrote seminal rulings while serving in The Hague on the international court for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, died on Saturday at her home in Washington. She was 90..Judge Wald was a pioneer for women in law, rising from a working-class Irish family to enter the legal profession at a time when women were a rare presence. She eventually became the first woman to serve on — and preside over — the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely regarded as the second most influential court in the country. Her career spanned a generational change that propelled women into visible and prominent roles, including on the Supreme Court, a job for which she was once in consideration.

Her path to becoming an important progressive voice in American jurisprudence showed the obstacles women faced in the mid-20th century. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1951; when she began, three years earlier, Harvard Law School did not even entertain applications from women. She became a law clerk for Jerome Frank, a prominent appeals court judge in New York, and worked briefly for some of Washington’s most prominent lawyers before leaving the workplace for 10 years to be at home with her family. She raised five children with her husband, Robert Wald, a Yale Law School classmate who established a thriving Washington law practice. He died in 2010. She described her choice without complaint or regret. “I didn’t feel any terrible sense of isolation or loss,” she said of leaving the workplace. “I just assumed I would go back.”…”

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