Edit ModuleShow Tags

Judith McConnell


Published:

She came to San Diego in 1969 with wide eyes and a law degree from Boalt Hall at Berkeley. As a fresh, young civil litigator, she was eagerly anticipating battles in the courtroom. She was not expecting a battle to get into the courtroom.

Résumés went out.

Fire one: "We don’t hire women; we’re going to stick with the boys," read one rejection letter.

Interviews began.

Fire two: "What kind of birth control do you use?"

Interviews continued.

Fire three: "How are you going to choose between being a wife and being an attorney?"

Young Judith McConnell’s job search was typical of the discrimination women faced in those days, she says. The San Diego County Bar Association’s monthly magazine, Dicta, even had its own pinup: Dicta Girl.

"There were very striking differences in the way the law treated men and women in terms of property ownership, credit, employment, pay and opportunities," says McConnell, who nonetheless beat the system—in spades. A judge for the past 20 years, McConnell rose to the bench in the 1970s when there were no women judges and few women attorneys.

And out of the inequities in the system, something called the Lawyers Club was born. It’s celebrating its 25th birthday this month. Its first president was McConnell, who, along with five female colleagues, founded the club. Its purpose was to deal with, by all lawful means, common problems faced by women in the community. And to eliminate sex discrimination. Membership was open to both sexes.

The barriers were not only in the workplace. In those days, the Grant Grill, the restaurant in downtown’s U.S. Grant Hotel, was off limits to women during the lunch hour. After making a reservation by phone, four Lawyers Club members, including McConnell, showed up for lunch, only to be told by the maître d’ that women were not allowed. The more they persisted, the more he resisted—until they pointed out that the Grant, as a public accommodation, was required to serve people in a nondiscriminatory manner. "By that time, I think they were considering the legal ramifications," says McConnell. "They let us in."

The Lawyers Club also was a refuge for its members. "It was an incredibly important support group in the early days for many of us, who were sprinkled around the profession and subjected to unusual scrutiny on a daily basis," says UCSD legal counsel Ann Parode.

And the club was an agent for change. "Judy and her friends paved the way for women attorneys," says Superior Court Judge Joan Weber.

When McConnell became presiding judge of the Superior Court in 1990, it was precedent-setting. She was the first woman in California to preside as judge over the courts of a major city. In 1994, she was nominated to the federal bench by Senator Barbara Boxer, a post she ultimately didn’t receive because of the controversy over a decision McConnell had rendered awarding custody of a juvenile to a gay parent.

But McConnell and the Lawyers Club have thrived in San Diego. "It’s like a cherished child," McConnell says of the club. "It has become a wonderful, vibrant organization with incredible leadership."
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego's Top 50 Trails

From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard

The Best of North County 2015

Our annual homage to the newest restaurants, shops, and activities keeping the region above I-56 the cool place it is—haute strip malls, million-dollar tract homes, and all!

San Diego's Top Dentists 2015

This list includes listings for over 450 dentists and specialists in the San Diego metropolitan area
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. 27 Reasons to Love San Diego
    Our annual list of all things San Diego and rad—from kiteboarding to urban farming to a city-wide book club
  2. Vote now: Best Restaurants 2015
    From best chefs to top tacos, you choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 63 categories
  3. I Tried It: The New Jazzercise
    When I hear the word “Jazzercise,” neon leotards, leg warmers, headbands, and old ladies come to mind
  4. Get Fit & Have Fun in San Diego
    From doggie bootcamps to intense bodybuilding programs, it’s an exciting time to get in shape. What are you waiting for?
  5. R.I.P.: Mike "Bossman" Hardin
    The San Diego restaurant scene lost a legend last week when Mike “Bossman” Hardin of Hodad’s passed away
  6. Food Self-Righteousness Is For Assholes
    Gawker calls foie gras eaters lots of bad names. A response.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

La Jolla Music Society Events

The La Jolla Music Society's 2015 Calendar
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

'Tis The Season

Winter in the desert cities

100 Works of Art to See Before You Die in San Diego

Local art critics, museum directors, and the big kahunas of the art world picked their must-see paintings, sculptures, and buildings with a special checklist just for you
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags