Edit ModuleShow Tags

Judith McConnell


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 Best New Restaurants 2015

From upscale modern Mexican to a hole-in-the-wall Thai spot, food critic Troy Johnson reveals his 10 favorite new eateries of 2015

The Beer Lover's (Ice) Bucket List

Need a New Year's resolution? Further your beer education by trying these 15 must-drink brews

Architecture: Modern Wonder

Inside Rob Quigley and Kathleen Hallahan’s award-winning East Village domicile
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Dear Chargers, It's Over
    A pre-emptive breakup letter to the team we love
  2. Healthcare Goes High-Tech
    Dr. Eric Topol is putting health care in the palms of our hands
  3. Be Seen This Fall in Rancho Mirage
    Enter To Win a 2 Night Stay Package at The Luxurious Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
  4. Growing Up in San Diego
    26 memories of being a kid in America's Finest City
  5. Incoming: Liberty Public Market
    San Diego's big public market unveils three big new concepts
  6. FIRST LOOK: Duke's La Jolla
    For decades, Top of the Cove in La Jolla held one of the most iconic restaurant spots in San Diego. Now they've finally filled that space. Take an exclusive first look at Duke's La Jolla.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


October is Rideshare Month

Join the Rideshare 2015 Challenge and get there together

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Win Dinner for Two at Black&Blue Steakhouse

Win dinner for two at Black&Blue Steakhouse and $25 in Free Slot Play at Valley View Casino

MADE IN AMERICA — Craft Icons of the 50 States

MADE IN AMERICA is the last exhibition in Mingei International Museum’s American Icons series, celebrating 100 years of folk art, craft and design from coast to coast.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags