Monday, March 30, 2015

Early Female Law Clerks of the DC Circuit

Cornelia Groefsema Kennedy (credit)
Good on the editorial board of the Ohio State Law Journal for dedicating a recent issue to Cornelia Groefsema Kennedy.  She commenced an illustrious legal and judicial career by becoming one of the first female law clerks in the DC Circuit, for Chief Judge Harold M. Stephens, in 1947-48.  A decade earlier, Stephens confessed to the newly appointed Henry Edgerton that "personally, I should be very much disinclined to have a woman law clerk.  I much prefer a woman secretary, but when it comes to the rough and tumble of law work, as such, I feel ill at ease in dealing with a women" (December 30, 1937, box 13, Stephens MSS, LC).  Yet Stephens and Groefsema appear to have had a cordial working relationship, judging from an affectionate greeting card from his "distaff" law clerk in box 270 of Stephens's papers.

Edgerton had raised the issue with Stephens, his undergraduate classmate at Cornell, because he wanted to hire a female clerk.  Mary Lybolt (Rosenzweig) was a 1934 graduate of the Cornell Law School, where Edgerton was a faculty member until his confirmation in December 1937.  Stephens told Edgerton, "if you prefer a woman, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have one.” Lybolt began her clerkship with Edgerton in 1938.

Update: In posting the above, I missed John Q. Barrett's tribute, written last June, shortly after Judge Kennedy's death.