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In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate

by Nancy Gertner

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From a "Human Rights Hero," a memoir of her illustrious career litigating groundbreaking cases Today Judge Nancy Gertner dons a long black robe while presiding over court cases for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. But in the 1970s, when she was one of few women in a stubbornly male profession, she sported bright red suits that reflected her fearless choice of cases and her daring litigation tactics. Defending clients in some of the most prominent criminal and civil rights cases of the time, Gertner drove home the point that women lawyers belonged in our courtrooms. In 1975, Nancy Gertner launched her legal career by defending antiwar activist Susan Saxe, who was on trial for her role in a robbery that resulted in the murder of a police officer. It was a high-profile, complex, and highly charged case. What followed for Gertner was a career of other groundbreaking firsts, as she fought her way through the boys' club climate of the time, throwing herself into criminal and civil cases focused on women's rights and civil liberties. Looking back on her storied career, Gertner writes about her struggle to succeed personally and professionally while working on benchmark cases. Among her clients were a woman suing the psychiatrist who had repeatedly molested her; another on trial for murdering her abusive husband; Teresa Contardo, suing Merrill Lynch for discrimination; and Clare Dalton, suing Harvard Law School for the same offense. In her signature red suit, Nancy Gertner was always the unrepentant advocate in defense of women. But over the years she also represented a student accused of rape; Ted Anzalone, on trial for extortion; and Matthew Stuart, implicated in his brother Charles's infamous murder of his pregnant wife. In Defense of Womenis the one-of-a-kind memoir of an exceptional, self-proclaimed "outsider lawyer."… (more)
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Okay, I have a new heroine, and her name is Nancy Gertner. I have never in my life wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer, but she made it sound incredibly rewarding, AND she did tons of civil rights work too, AND was appointed to the federal bench.

In the preface, Gertner talks about a panel that she and Sonia Sotomayor both sat on in the late 90s, where they were asked about how one became a judge. This is one of my new favorite passages of all time, slightly paraphrased for brevity:

Sotomayor: You graduate with a stellar record. You work as a prosecutor in the celebrated Manhattan DA's office. You take care not to be publicly associated with controversial issues. You demonstrate that you can be a neutral, temperate jurist.

Gertner: You graduate with a stellar record. Then, you represent the first lesbian, feminist, radical, anti-Vietnam War activist accused of killing a police officer you can find. You take every abortion case in Massachusetts; you speak out on the major hot-button issues of the day on television or in the editorial pages of the newspapers. You represent defendants of all stripes, from those in political corruption cases to high-profile murder cases, and for the final coup de grace, you marry the legal director of the state ACLU office. In short, do everything that in this epoch of strident judicial politics should disqualify you for the position.

Awesome. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
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From a "Human Rights Hero," a memoir of her illustrious career litigating groundbreaking cases Today Judge Nancy Gertner dons a long black robe while presiding over court cases for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. But in the 1970s, when she was one of few women in a stubbornly male profession, she sported bright red suits that reflected her fearless choice of cases and her daring litigation tactics. Defending clients in some of the most prominent criminal and civil rights cases of the time, Gertner drove home the point that women lawyers belonged in our courtrooms. In 1975, Nancy Gertner launched her legal career by defending antiwar activist Susan Saxe, who was on trial for her role in a robbery that resulted in the murder of a police officer. It was a high-profile, complex, and highly charged case. What followed for Gertner was a career of other groundbreaking firsts, as she fought her way through the boys' club climate of the time, throwing herself into criminal and civil cases focused on women's rights and civil liberties. Looking back on her storied career, Gertner writes about her struggle to succeed personally and professionally while working on benchmark cases. Among her clients were a woman suing the psychiatrist who had repeatedly molested her; another on trial for murdering her abusive husband; Teresa Contardo, suing Merrill Lynch for discrimination; and Clare Dalton, suing Harvard Law School for the same offense. In her signature red suit, Nancy Gertner was always the unrepentant advocate in defense of women. But over the years she also represented a student accused of rape; Ted Anzalone, on trial for extortion; and Matthew Stuart, implicated in his brother Charles's infamous murder of his pregnant wife. In Defense of Womenis the one-of-a-kind memoir of an exceptional, self-proclaimed "outsider lawyer."

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