Ms. JD in Toronto: Reception featuring Nancy Gertner

This is the second installment in Ms.JD's series "Ms.JD in Toronto" covering issues related to women and gender at the ABA's 2011 Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

I have a confession. I have a new crush. A strictly professional lady lawyer crush of course, but a crush none the less. Last Friday, Judge Nancy Gertner spoke at a reception held at the Law Society of Upper Canada. Judge Gertner, who one gets the feeling might rather be called Nancy, talked about her road to becoming a judge. The road was, well, nontraditional. “How does one become a judge,” Gertner asked the audience, “Well, you graduate from a top institution with a stellar record. And then, you represent the first lesbian, feminist, radical, anti-Vietnam War activist accused of killing a police officer you can find. Then you take every abortion case in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” I, and the rest of the ABA meeting attendees in the room, was smitten.

Judge Gertner has recently published a new book, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate. If it is half as honest, funny, and heartwarming as her talk in Toronto it is sure to be a best seller in no time. What I found particularly refreshing about Gertner’s talk was that she said out loud so much of what the voice in my head doesn’t usually say out loud. Her talk began at the same place as her book, the Susan Saxe trial. A self-identified “lapsed radical” a twenty-nine year old Gertner infamously defended accused cop killer Susan Saxe beginning in 1975. Gertner went on to talk about both profession and person life choices; most notably speaking publically about hot button issues, her nomination to the bench, and her decision to marry at the age of 39.  

After the talk the group of representatives from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, CBA Women’s Lawyers Forum, the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations and the Law Society of Upper Canada resumed the networking they’d been doing during the rest of the ABA meeting weekend. This time however, everyone seemed to have a little more confidence to be themselves. If Judge Gertner could do it, we could do it. That evening, I went home and immediately began reading In Defense of Women. You can look forward to a full review on Ms.JD later this month.



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