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Summer 2001
Two New League Studies
Delegates Share Impressions of the State Convention - 1 (Andrea Gray)
Delegates Share Impressions of the State Convention - 2 (Marie Fifield)
Delegates Share Impressions of the State Convention - 3 (Carol White)
Highlights of Judge Senda's Speech "Women and the Law" (Trudy Senda)
Kaua'i LWV Annual Election

Highlights of Judge Senda's Speech
"Women and the Law"

The KLWV annual meeting featured newly appointed judge to the Kaua'i District Court, Trudy Senda, who informed us with her research and entertained us with her insights on the topic: The Evolving Role of Women and the Law. These "excepts" below are taken hopefully in context, but the editor apologizes for not having the space to include this 11-page speech in its entirety. Any contextual errors are those of the editor.


Good afternoon, members of the League of Women Voters and welcomed guests. First of all, I'd like to express my sincere thanks for the honor of addressing you today.

Like many in the general public, my exposure to the League has been limited to election years, when it serves as a staunch and objective "watchdog" – making every effort to encourage and open up real dialogue on important issues, educating all of us so that, in turn, we might become more effective participants in citizen democracy.

When I look at the League's basic purposes – of fostering citizen involvement, developing citizen leaders and helping people understand public issues and how government operates – I am truly grateful for its existence and its diligence.

The job of a judge is no more important than your job as an individual, to protect the community's welfare and build better government by speaking up on issues which concern you.

Indeed, your mission works hand in hand with what I believe to be the true mission and purpose of our justice system.... to insure equal access to the courts, due process for all litigants, and full and fair adjudication of all claims.

When I was first invited to speak, I agonized over what to say to such a learned and involved audience....

After much deliberation, I decided against boring you with such "non-controversial" topics as abortion, same-sex marriage, racial profiling and butterfly ballots.

What I have chosen to speak about then, is the evolving role of women in the law, including some historical perspective in the area.

I also felt it appropriate to give you an idea of who Kaua'l's newest District Court Judge is and where she came from.... not because my life is unique or special, but because my work and impending career shift are the result of brave and difficult strides made by my female predecessors.

I am a true beneficiary of my predecessors and peers. Without the proven capabilities and efforts of such women, I might not have received the opportunity to serve in a new capacity.

I am, of course, obligated to open with the ubiquitous lawyer joke! You know the main problem with lawyer jokes, though? Lawyers don't think they're funny and other people don't think they're jokes.

"If a lawyer and an IRS agent were both drowning, and you only had time to save one of them, would you go to lunch or read the newspaper?"

Anyway, for those of you who do not know me... I was born and raised on Kauai. Three of my grandparents came to this country from Japan. My dad is a retired CPA, and my mom retired from the State Tax Office. I have one brother, older, who is a lawyer in Honolulu.

I graduated from Kauai High School and went on to receive a Bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in journalism and political science. This was hot on the heels of Watergate and "All the President's Men", so, at that time, I had grand dreams of being an investigative print reporter and saving the world.

Alas, that did not come to pass, so I worked for a couple of years after college and then decided to go to law school.

Locally, much ado was made of the fact that a woman was appointed to the bench.

Kaua'i has had only one full-time female judge... I will have the honor and privilege of being its second. I will join 8 other women who sit on the District Court bench in this state.

Let me share something of my judicial predecessor.

Judge Carrick Hume Buck was Hawaii's first woman judge. She became a Circuit Court judge in 1934, appointed by President Roosevelt, and she held that position for 24 years until her retirement in 1958. Eight of those years were spent serving the people of Kaua'i.

Carrick Buck herself had a strong role model. Her mother was the first woman to be admitted to the New Mexico bar.

She was the second woman admitted to the Hawaii bar she was Hawaii's first woman Assistant U.S. Attorney and its first woman Deputy City-County Attorney.

During her tenure, she was the only female judge in the Territory of Hawaii.

Judge Buck's accomplishments are all the more remarkable when you consider that...

In the 1950s, now Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor could only get a job as a legal secretary after graduating from law school. And her colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, became a law school professor after graduating from Columbia Law School because major U.S. law firms would not hire a woman.

By all accounts, our Judge Buck was a truly fine jurist. Newspaper reports of that time describe her as a "thorough researcher of the law in civil cases and a firm dispenser of penalties for criminal offenders." Her salary – was an exorbitant $15,000 a year.

So, although it has been nearly 60 years since Kauai had a woman full-time judge, my predecessor certainly set the bar at a high level, and it is now my task to rise to the challenge.

It is also my task to live through the inevitable onslaught of "Judge Judy" – "Judge Trudy" jokes for at least six months.

Turning to the subject at hand, however, it is an exciting time for women in law.... and one that holds great promise for the future contributions we will make in our society.

As we move forward as lawyers, judges, leaders, humanitarians, educators and advocates, however, we should not forget the difficult road taken by our women pioneers. These women weathered the baseless stereotypes and prejudices of their day.

In 1910, women constituted only 1% of all lawyers. Some fifty years later, in the 1960s, that percentage was still at less than 3%.

It was in the year 1973 that Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes". But even then, women comprised less than 15% of law school enrollments.

Thus, it is really only in the last two decades that we have seen a strong increase in numbers of women entering law school. Thanks to that trend, by year 2000, approximately one-third of all lawyers in the United States were women.

Nationally, women have now advanced to pinnacles of leadership in the bar.

The American Bar Association can hardly be called a liberal, left wing organization. As a first year law student in 1980, I remember the organization being perceived by many as an Old Boys' club – with members who were middle-aged or old white men interested in big business and big bucks. Minority representation was still modest at best.

As we enter 2001, however, women are now visible at the ABA's highest levels of power.

For the second time in ABA history, women are serving as both ABA president and Chair of the House of Delegates. Women currently chair sections on taxation, business law and law practice management.

In Hawaii, the numbers are even more encouraging for women.

The State of Hawaii has what we call a "unified" bar – every licensed Hawaii attorney is a member of the Hawaii State Bar Association. The organization has over 3,200 "active" members, and elections for its presidency are always hard-fought.

The HSBA has had two women presidents - Sherry Broder (who is known for successfully pursuing civil claims against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos) served as HSBA president in 1993 and Ellen Godby Carson in 1996.

Kauai's immediate past and current representatives on the HSBA board have been women.

The consumer lawyers of Hawaii, comprised of trial lawyers, consistently elects women to key leadership positions on its Board of Governors.

More women now hold power positions in our State Legislature. Our own Representative Morita is a prime example. During this legislative session, the State Senate has six women, two of which are attorneys. Senator Colleen Hanabusa is Vice President of the Senate and Vice Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

And at last count, I believe fourteen women sat in our State House of Representatives. Here on Kauai, gender diversity is also evident in our governmental legal offices.

The sole State Deputy Attorney General on Kauai is a woman. Four of nine prosecutors are women, handling criminal prosecutions at all levels including felonies and appeals.

In the office of the County Attorney, Amy Esaki serves as Kauai's first deputy, and she is one of three women in a seven-attorney office.

Our Grand Jury counsel is a woman, Sara Silverman.

Our Federal Courts have two female jurists.

In the Hawai'i State Judiciary, women now sit at every court level.

Associate Justice Paula Nakayama was appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993.

Twelve of 30 Circuit Court judges are women. Nine of 22 District Court judges are women, as are four of 14 Family Court judges.

The nine-member Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission currently has two female members. One of them, Amy Agbayani, was just elected to serve as chair of this very important and powerful commission. Not only do these commissioners screen applicants for judicial positions, they also decide whether a sitting judge will be retained for a further term of service.

Another important body, the Hawai'i Paroling Authority, decides if, and under what specific conditions, an inmate will be permitted to re-enter the community as a parolee. Two of the HPA's three members are women, one of them an attorney.

These statistics confirm that women lawyers continue their advancement and accomplishments in law, governance and public service. Their numbers are now large enough to reshape our society, and the trend appears permanent. One need only look at law school admissions nationwide. Since 1960, the number of women entering law school has increased from 4% to almost 50% today. Within the next year, that percentage is expected to rise to 55%, the same percentage of females in the U.S. population.

In 1980, over 40% of my entering class was female. Of 74 students entering Richardson in the Fall of 2000, 62% were female. At Richardson, women law students now outnumber their male counterparts by 20%. And, although the increase in women law faculty members nationwide is still modest, Hawaii's Law School faculty is close to 40% female.

I believe that the increase in women students and faculty has fostered a positive change in legal education.

Of late, there has been an emphasis on teaching or reinforcing values such as professional ethics, civility and a commitment to public service. American law school curriculum has also expanded to include a wider variety of courses such as feminist jurisprudence and race culture and law.

Not only has the curriculum changed through the influence of women, the quality of law school life has changed and become more humanitarian and compassionate.

In my mind, the impact of women lawyers upon society and our legal system will be more far-reaching than many expect. First, we tend to assume that law students simply grow up to become practicing lawyers. This is true for most. However, more women are turning to career options outside traditional law firm practice.

Increasingly, they are choosing politics, business or non-profit work after graduation. Their legal training gives them strong writing and verbal communication skills and provides greater work options. As women lawyers enter fields traditionally dominated by men, their perspectives and approaches cannot help but reshape society and the way we interact with each other. Women have a unique and special understanding of the need to balance work and family life. We do not view balance as a negative, and this is healthy for society as a whole. ...Let me close by simply saying that I am very excited about stepping into my "new" pair of shoes and embracing "objectivity" rather than singular advocacy.

I suppose that only time will tell whether my "learning curve" as a judge will end successfully....

I hope so, and I do hope that in my new role, I will be able to dispel the long-held belief embodied in the following riddle:

What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 50?
Answer: "Your Honor".

Trudy Senda

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