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Posted Oct. 19, 2011

Gertner, Lithwick to Discuss Role of Women in the Judiciary

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U.S. Judge Nancy Gertner, left, and Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick

Two of the most high-profile women in the legal profession will speak at "The Fairer Sex: A Conversation About Women in the Judiciary" at the Law School on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion.

U.S. Judge Nancy Gertner recently retired from full-time service on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and now serves as a senior judge. She is the author of "In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate," published in 2011. As a senior editor at Slate and a contributing editor at Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick is one of the nation's most popular voices in legal analysis.

After graduating from Yale Law School, Gertner began her legal career in 1971 as a clerk for Judge Luther Swygert of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She practiced law in Boston from 1974-92 as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer and was described by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of "The Most Influential Lawyers of the Past 25 Years." Famous for wearing bright red suits in the courtroom, Gertner became known as an advocate for women in the legal profession. During the 1980s, Gertner took on Merrill Lynch in a sex discrimination case; made history by asserting battered woman syndrome in defense of a woman charged with murdering her husband; and challenged Harvard's denial of tenure to a female law professor. In 1994 she was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton. In 2008, Gertner became the second woman — after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to receive the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association for her career as both a lawyer and a judge. Gertner has taught courses on topics ranging from employment discrimination to American sentencing and comparative sentencing law at Yale Law School, Boston University School of Law, Boston College Law School and Harvard Law School. She was appointed a Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School in 2011.

Lithwick writes "Supreme Court Dispatches" and "Jurisprudence" for Slate and a bi-weekly column for Newsweek. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Commentary and The Washington Post, among others, and she has also made regular appearances on NPR's "Day to Day." Lithwick received the Online News Association's award for online commentary in 2001 and again in 2005, for a series she coauthored on torture, and was the first online journalist invited to serve on the Steering Committee for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She is the co-author of "Me v. Everybody: Absurd Contracts for an Absurd World," a legal humor book, and "I Will Sing Life: Voices from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp," a book about seven children from Paul Newman's camp with life-threatening illnesses. A Stanford Law School graduate and former clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Lithwick lives in Charlottesville.

Gertner will sign copies of her book starting at 4:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Feminist Legal Forum, the Jewish Law Students Association, the Student Legal Forum and Women of Color.