AG Janet Mills Remarks to the Maine State Bar Assoc. Glassman Award Luncheon
September 16, 2014
ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET T. MILLS REMARKS TO THE MAINE STATE BAR ASSOCIATION GLASSMAN AWARD LUNCHEON Friday, June 27, 2014, Rockport, Maine
Congratulations to my good friend Ginger Davis! What a wonderful and varied career you have had, what a trailblazer you have been, and what great contributions to the Maine and American Bar Associations and to our legal community! Thank you for all you have done.
It is a good time to reflect back on where we’ve come.
Before I started law school, a boyfriend gave me a string of pearls. “You’ll need these,” he said. I had no idea why. But it was the nicest piece of jewelry I had ever had. I didn’t own a suit yet; but I owned some pearls.
Pearls to me represent beauty, patience and sense of adventure. Bright and wonderful, born of grit, perfected over time, polished to perfection.
Today I wear these pearls in honor of Caroline Duby Glassman.
Caroline Glassman was practicing law when I was in law school.
My class of 1976 was the first class at U. Maine Law School with a substantial number of women—20 out of 80 graduates. The previous year there were only seven.
In 1961 three percent of law school students nationally were women. Now that figure stands at fifty-three percent.
There was only one woman professor—Judy Potter. We lobbied for a course on Women and the Law. We started a “Women’s Law Association” and earned ourselves a space on the bulletin board in the basement. We pressured Dean Godfrey and Dean Prunty to put feminine hygiene products in the ladies rooms.—We had arrived!
My class included a shy student named Peggy Kravchuk, later the first woman in the federal judiciary in Maine; the ever stylish Paula Silsby, first woman US Attorney; Joan Kidman one of the first Magistrates in the Maine court system, who was 9 months pregnant when we sat for the bar exam, utilities lawyer Barbara Alexander and Helen Eddy, who was grey haired and in her forties when she started law school and who tried to convince law firms to hire her by saying they would not only have a woman on their letterhead but it would look like she’d been there for awhile!
It was not easy for women to get law jobs in the private sector. If a woman was married to another lawyer, for instance, the firms balked at hiring her because of the spectre of conflict of interest. Nowadays, lawyer couples are commonplace, and conflicts easily averted.
I was hired in the Criminal Division of the AGs Office, the first woman in that division.
Once in 1979 I tried a case in front of Justice Harry Glassman, a tough case with some interesting issues. All the rest of the players were men. Reporter Bill Caldwell showed up and followed the trial with a keen interest. After getting a guilty verdict, I waited for his article to appear. The Sunday Telegram arrived. Nothing in the state news section. Nothing in the local news. Then on the front of the Family and Society section, there it was, Caldwell’s column, with the headline, “The Prosecutor Wore Pale Powder Blue!” – It was all about what I was wearing, and what a cute thing it was for a ‘girl’ to be prosecuting a murder case in a room full of men. He talked about my matching blue suit and shoes. He made no mention of my pearls, white as tiger’s teeth.
After nearly four years in the Attorney General’s Office, I sought to fill a vacancy in the District Attorney’s position for Androscoggin, Oxford & Franklin Counties. There would be an interim appointment followed promptly by a caucus and an election. I lobbied the Governor. There were at least two men who also wanted the job. On the very day that District Attorney Tom Delahanty was sworn in as United States Attorney the Governor finally made up his mind. Within minutes I was sworn in as the official District Attorney for three counties. That day in the State House I heard a guy in the AG’s Office yell down the hall, “I guess if I had ovaries I’d have gotten that appointment!”
Overnight I turned into a politician, with the thick skin, the sense of humor, and the pearls that went with the job. People used to ask, “What’s it like to be a woman DA?” What a stupid question. I’d say, “I don’t know. I’ve never been a male DA.”
I was the first female DA, but not the last. Today four of the eight elected District Attorneys are women.
We had foremothers, however, in the practice of law. I had my then sister-in-law, Meg, whose office on the Maine Law Review in 1973 was cluttered with toddler toys and sippy cups and who combined music, homemaking, parenting, literature and law in a extraordinary and succesful way. Susan Kominsky was blazing trails as a trial lawyer in Bangor.
And a few years later, Jody Sataloff broke the clothing barrier—She actually wore slacks in Harry Glassman’s courtroom. Lord, what a buzz that set off!
There were a few earlier trailblazers too — like Agnes May Robinson, a member of the Law School’s first graduating class of 1900, admitted in my home town of Farmington. Agnes Hapgood Nash, of Machias, who was admitted to the bar in 1872 and who tried a jury case in Washington County the following year.
Gail Laughlin, the first woman lawyer to serve in the Maine Legislature. Elected in 1923, she served three terms in the House and three in the State Senate and fought against protective labor laws that would restrict the working hours of women. She even argued a case before the US Supreme Court in 1933 on the right of women to serve on juries. In the 91 years since Sen. Laughlin first ran for office, we’ve made slow progress in public service. There are only 8 women in the state senate, out of 35 senators, and 47 of the 151 members of the House. We are losing ground, although this year for the first time, both Chairs of the Appropriations Committee are women, one of whom joins us today.
There was one woman on the court when I graduated from law school — Harriet Henry, appointed by Gov. Curtis in 1973. Sometimes she would sit in Lewiston. I would go into her chambers and we’d have a chat. The bailiffs would whisper under their breaths that we must be exchanging cookie recipes.
I tried cases in Androscoggin County before the first woman on the Superior Court — Jessie Briggs Gunther — a no-nonsense, intelligent and very effective jurist who was earlier appointed to the District Court at the ripe old age of 28.
Today there are two women on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, two out of seven, including our distinguished Chief Justice Saufley. Two others, Susan Calkins and Caroline Glassman, retired. That’s only four women out of the hundreds of members of that Court over 194 years. Only five out of the current seventeen Superior Court justices are women. Nine of the 36 members of the District Court, only 25% of them.
But, back to Caroline Glassman — because this is the first Glassman Award luncheon we’ve had without Caroline Glassman being here, or listening from somewhere.
We know that Justice Caroline Glassman was the first woman on the Maine Supreme Court; that her husband Harry Glassman taught for many years at the University of Maine Law School and went on to be an excellent Superior Court trial judge and, for a short time, a Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. For a long time she was known here in Maine primarily as Harry’s wife. Then she made her mark as a practicing attorney, a litigator, a well prepared and fierce but good-natured adversary. Then as a member of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, blazing a trail of leadership on that Court.
She wore pearls every day. One of a kind, attractive, rare, iridescent, cultured or wild, fine, admired and highly valued. Today I wear my pearls for her.
Of course, we remember that she was opinionated. That she didn’t brook criticism. She did not avoid controversy or a bit of adventure but welcomed it. She growled, she barked, she joked, she laughed. Her questions from the bench were intimidating, as sharp and striking as her white hair and her matching necklace. And she expected and respected frankness in return.
We know she was of Franco American descent, a “cradle born Catholic,” that her grandmother was Native American, her father a staunch Democrat, her mother a staunch Republican; that she grew up in modest circumstances at the end of the Oregon Trail, the youngest of six children.
She rode a horse to a one-room schoolhouse two miles from her family’s cattle ranch for the first eight grades, a trailblazer from birth. An excellent horsewoman, she could also drive a car, which was a novelty in those days in that part of the country.
She started at Willamette Law School at the age of eighteen. The dean brought her in and asked her what she was doing there, suggesting that women went to law school only to find a husband. He even offered to refund her tuition if she would drop out and do something else. She refused.
Her father disapproved of her going to law school and refused to pay her tuition. She worked her way through school instead, waiting tables.
Her Criminal Law professor warned the two women in the class there would be some unpleasant cases discussed and that they might want to excuse themselves from those classes. They stayed. Of these two women who started in her class, only one finished. Caroline Duby aced her courses, graduating summa cum laude in 1944. She blazed a trail.
After law school she traveled around the country, working as a title insurance attorney, a legal secretary, a medical secretary and, for a while, as a magistrate for the federal court system. She ended up in San Francisco, fortunately for us and for her. For it was there she met and married trial attorney Harry Glassman.
Maybe he bought her the pearls she treasured for the rest of her life.
She worked in the law firm of the “King of Torts,” Melvin Belli, starting there as a legal secretary while she established California residency. After about a year, they needed someone to cover a hearing. Only then did she tell them she was a lawyer. And the rest, as they say, is history. She was the only woman trial lawyer in San Francisco, doing plaintiffs’ personal injury work with Belli’s firm. One of only three or four women lawyers in the entire state of California.
She had her son, Max, when she was 37, after practicing law for more than a decade. The family came to Maine in the early ‘60’s when Harry got his master’s and became the first professor hired by Dean Godfrey at the Maine Law School.
While Harry taught, Caroline got involved in the Model Cities Program in Portland, writing a successful grant and then running the program. She ran for City Council but lost to Gerry Conley, her only foray into politics.
When Harry had his first of several heart attacks, she filled in at the law school. She practiced law out of her home and then teamed up with Rod Potter, doing family law, criminal defense, probate, personal injury and workers comp work. She became one of the best trial lawyers in Maine.
Cognizant of her civic duties, she served as President of the Cumberland County Bar Association and on the Board of Governors of the Maine Bar Association. As Vice Chair of the Criminal Code Commission, she helped write the new Maine Criminal Code in the mid-seventies.
One of my brothers, who shall remain nameless — except that his first name begins with Peter — described being on the other side of a case with Caroline Glassman: “Caroline got a lot of miles out of sounding like Marlene Dietrich. She was good at settling cases over the phone. Everything started out like phone sex until you realized you were paying too much for the claim. And then there was her partner Rod Potter who thought of himself as Paul Newman. They resembled a couple of movie stars in their boutique office on Fore Street over Joseph's.”
In 1983, after Harry died and after Gene Carter went on the federal bench, Governor Brennan, a Democrat, appointed Caroline Glassman, a Republican, to the Maine Supreme Court. Gov. Brennan said he very much wanted to put a woman on the highest court, that it was high time, and that there was absolutely no question who it would be.
In her fourteen years on the Law Court, Justice Glassman took part in nearly 4,000 opinions, authored 500 majority opinions and joined 74 dissents. I once heard a prominent judge refer to her under his breath as “Madam No!” But the fact is, she spent a lot of time persuading her colleagues to her views, and she authored only 5 dissents. She never missed an oral argument.
As a judge she traveled to China to learn about that country’s tradition of mediating legal disputes.
As soon as she retired in 1997 Justice Glassman got involved in promoting the Rule of Law in Portland’s sister city, Archangel, Russia. She was enormously proud of the work she did, hosting Russian judges in our country through the Open World Program, getting officials in Russia to support an independent judiciary, persuading the Russian courts to eliminate bribery, promote economic stability and respect precedent by actually publishing cases, something we take for granted here. At age 80 she traveled to Archangel alone, a daunting trip even for a person half her age.
Magistrate Kravchuk, who sometimes traveled with her, tells me that Justice Glassman was treated like a “grand dame,” holding court in small fishing shacks on the White Sea, the male Russian judges enthralled by her throaty voice and her regal presence, treating her like Katherine—or Caroline—the Great! Maybe it was the pearls that drew them to her.
She wrote an article for the Bar Journal analyzing Maine’s sentencing practices. She served on the board of directors of the Cleaves Law Library, the Maine Law School Foundation and law school’s Board of Visitors. She worked on the Gender Bias Task Force. Ever innovative and forward-looking, she was one of the first women in Maine to own a hybrid car.
Besides going to the gym three times a week, she would read the newspaper into a recording every week for broadcast over the radio for the visually impaired. Once a month she worked in the soup kitchen in Portland. “I believe,” she said, “that all judges and lawyers would benefit from working with underprivileged people, those who live in poverty and experience the handicap of feeling little control in their lives.”
I don’t know if Justice Caroline Duby Glassman read poetry. But if she did, she might have read Mary Oliver: “When it is over,” Oliver wrote, “I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder If I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Why do I talk about Caroline Glassman, adventurer and trailblazer to the end, a woman whose beauty was her strength, her strength her beauty, like the pearls she wore with flawless pride and purpose?
Why do we need to talk about women from our history?
Are these just quaint stories to be remembered once a year, when the food is good, when we toast our victories, lament our losses and share stories, a short remembrance after dessert, stories that grow grey and musty with every passing generation and every new stage of our collective careers?
What does it matter, now that we have equal rights, equal opportunities, at least on paper, at least in the eyes of the law. Now that we have the numbers in the law schools and in the profession?
Why do we need to remember any of this?
Because, very simply, we’re not there yet. And because don’t want to end up ‘simply having visited this world.’
Because we always need to rekindle our sense of adventure and remind ourselves of the work yet to be accomplished.
Because we should not be satisfied with our numbers on the bench, in politics, in management and in leadership positions in both private and public sectors.
And are we not concerned that so many older women are living alone in this state, taken for granted, many times taken advantage of?
Are we not appalled that more women die from domestic violence each year, despite our many years toiling in the trenches to safeguard our families.
Are we not shocked by the lives of young women cut short and towns despoiled by heroin and prescription drug abuse?
Aren’t we all appalled that breast cancer has stolen the lives of so many women? Or that health care is still unavailable to tens of thousands of Maine women?
Are we not offended that young women and children are traded like commodities in human trafficking rings?
Do we not cringe to hear about women serving our country in the military who have to fight off their peers and their superiors as well against acts of sexual aggression?
Is there not more that we can do as women lawyers?
Should we not help every young woman fulfill her dreams, take chances, break down barriers and create new opportunities for others?
This Award is more than a tribute to Caroline Glassman, more than an honor for any individual attorney. It is a reminder that, like her, we should not be complacent but should seek adventure and perfection and many more ways to make the world a better place.
There are new trails to blaze. And they are lined with, lighted, guided and adorned with pearls. Wear them well.
Thank you for honoring Caroline Glassman. Thank you, Ginger Davis, for your work and for continuing to light the way for all women in Maine to a better life.