Dr. SJ and I were married by Acting Supreme Court Justice Levitan. The judge’s first name was Shirley, and we were friends. She had invited me to call her by her first name outside the courtroom, but I never did. She was always Judge Levitan to me. It never felt right to be so familiar, as I didn’t know her before she was a judge and Judge Levitan was a judge. I was not.
So the story told by former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Leah Ward Sears, was shocking.
Leah Ward Sears, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, said people often assumed that her husband was the judge when they traveled together. Today, she said she is treated differently than other retired justices who are men.
“At least down south, when you retire, you maintain the word judge or justice,” said Sears, now a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell in Atlanta. “Judge Griffin Bell was always Judge Griffin Bell, even when he’s at King and Spalding.”
“When people encounter me, they don’t know what to say,” she said. “I’ve been in groups of all retired judges, and it’s Judge this, and Judge that, and then, Leah.”
Justice Sears earned the title. Why would anyone not show her the respect she deserved?
“I do wonder, Jesus, do you have to become chief justice to get the same respect as a first year white guy out of law school gets automatically?” she said.
Does this actually happen? Obviously, or Justice Sears wouldn’t have said so, but it’s so far outside the realm of my experience that I can’t begin to understand how anyone would be so disrespectful.
There is plenty of griping about discrimination against women in law, much of it petty and disingenuous, as if women really aren’t good enough and can only cut it if one is stacking the bench, or the CLE panel, based on genitalia. The woke believe this is wonderful. Those of us who actually believe in equality don’t think women need to be treated like incompetent fragile flowers. They can be every bit as smart and tough as anyone else.
Maybe this is a criminal law thing*, as we have a great many exceptional women defense lawyers and, frankly, couldn’t care less whether they are missing a penis. We care deeply whether they can make an agent cry on cross. Many can.
But when it comes to a judge, the fact that there are women on the bench runs counter to the discrimination narrative. Hell, they’re recognized for their abilities and given a robe. They won the prize (and you, and I, didn’t). Getting the bench shows that women are respected for their skills. Trust me when I say that having a woman judge sentence a defendant to 232 years doesn’t feel any gentler than some guy judge. A female judge is every bit as real as a male judge. You know why? Because they’re friggin’ judges.
Justice Sears’ point, however, that while the guys were all “judge this, judge that,” she was “Leah” is outrageous. Much as you may dislike a judge for her rulings or disposition, she holds an office which we, as lawyers, must respect lest we’re back to trial by combat or seeing if our clients float. A judge, unless defrocked, should be addressed as judge, not because we like them, or because of their gender, but because they held the office of judge. To do otherwise is outrageous and disrespectful. If invited, you can be more familiar in private (even though that’s not my way), but who are you to treat a woman judge disrespectfully?
That this happens to women judges is shocking to me. What is wrong with you people?
*This may be just my bias, as the women with whom I’ve interacted who practice crim defense seem to be just as focused on kicking ass as the men. Or it may just be my limited scope of knowledge, as these are the women I work with. But treat a female criminal defense lawyer poorly and there’s a damn good chance they’ll rip your lungs out without blinking. As they should.