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From l-r: Pamelya Herndon, Dorene Kuffer, Anne Bingaman, Justice Petra Maes (`73), Roberta Cooper Ramo, Kyle Marie Stack, Dean Kevin Washburn.
Anne Bingaman, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Petra Maes (`73) and Roberta Cooper Ramo shared their struggles and accomplishments as trailblazing women lawyers in New Mexico during a March event at the University of New Mexico School of Law. The title of the event, Celebrating Women’s Stories, was presented by the Southwest Women’s Law Center as part of Women’s History Month.
Bingaman, the first woman to lead the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, recalled how she became the first female law professor at the UNM School of Law: invited over the phone by Dean Fred Hart to join the all-male faculty. She provided anecdotes about the successful effort she was involved in to pass a state Equal Rights Amendment in New Mexico and to ratify the federal ERA. During her career, she has worked in government, business and the law.
Maes was one of the first two Hispanic women to graduate from the UNM School of Law in 1973. When she was appointed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, she became the first Hispanic female to serve on the court. In her remarks, she talked about the barriers she overcame to first become a lawyer and then become a member of the judiciary. She was told she was too short, and not an Anglo male. She is celebrating her 30th year on the state’s highest court and in April will become chief justice.
Ramo was a young lawyer when she took on the case of a young female golfer in Roswell who wanted to play alongside the boys on the Goddard High School golf team. The successful outcome of the settlement she helped bring about led in part to Title IX, federal legislation that requires gender equality in school academics and athletics. The golfer, Nancy Lopez, went on to become the top woman golfer in the country. Ramo herself went on to become the first female president of the American Bar Association and also of the American Law Institute. She is a principal at Modrall Sperling.
In the early 1970s, when these women were starting out in their careers, there were barely 100 women practicing law in New Mexico. Today, women make up about 39 percent of the State Bar.
March 15, 2012