Women of the Courts Symposium: A Great Lady and Little Known Page of Supreme Court History

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

... The principal character in the episode I will relate is Burnita Shelton Matthews, first woman ever to be appointed to a life-tenured federal trial court judgeship. ... Burnita Shelton Matthews' representation of the Woman's Party, and others who owned property on the building site, led to the largest condemnation award the United States had paid up to that time. ... The house was erected in 1815, after the burning of the Capitol in the war of 1812. It served as temporary quarters for Congress, and later, as a jail for Confederate prisoners. ... In November 17, 1928 correspondence, Chief Justice Taft reported that the pace of the condemnation proceedings was dreadfully slow and most exasperating. ... Through it all, Burnita Shelton Matthews remained unperturbed. ... To that end, it offered the expert testimony of two architectural engineers. ... So much for the Justice Department's contention that the building was constructed post-Civil War in 1869. ... How pleased Burnita Shelton Matthews would be to know that across the country, as in other lands, women are taking their rightful place as lawyers - skilled professionals who will advance the rule of law for the benefit of all of the people law exists or should exist to serve.
  • Print Location Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Women of the Courts Symposium: A Great Lady and Little Known Page of Supreme Court History, 36 U. Tol. L. Rev. 849 (2005).

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