(This editorial borrows heavily from the remarks of Baltimore City Circuit Judge Julie R. Rubin who, on behalf of the Women’s Bar Association, presented the first Etta Maddox Award to Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia at its annual meeting in Easton on April 8. Battaglia turned 70 on Thursday, the mandatory retirement age for judges.)
Over the course of her venerable career, Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia has fused her drive for public service with the fire in her belly for women to serve as leaders and claim their rightful place at the bench and bar. This fire has caused the judge always to advance, never to be satisfied with the status quo as a lawyer, a public servant or a judge of our state’s highest court and always to seek to mentor those who might benefit from her guidance.
Her biography as a political and legal leader is well known because it is nothing short of stunning.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from American University in 1967 and a year later her master’s in Latin American studies (with a focus on Argentina) also from American University, Battaglia won a National Defense Education Act Title IV Fellowship – which were awarded to candidates interested in pursuing teaching in higher education – and then began her doctoral studies in American government at Georgetown University. Teaching is a most laudable goal but her interests led her down a different path, as she entered law school at the University of Maryland, where she was articles editor of the Law Review and from which she graduated Order of the Coif in 1974.
After four years in private practice, Battaglia was recruited in 1978 to serve as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 1988, then-Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran tapped her to serve as chief of the Criminal Investigations Division. Within three years, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., named her chief of staff.
In 1993, Battaglia became the first woman to hold the office of U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland. She held that office until her 2001 state Senate confirmation as a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals from the 3rd Appellate Circuit, which covers western part of the state.
Labor of love
Battaglia’s accomplishments are dazzling. She is dazzling. But listing her credentials and describing her path of leadership fail to communicate everything about her. Ask any female lawyer (or, for that matter, any male lawyer) who knows the judge and she will confirm Battaglia’s commitment to women in law, both at the bench and bar, is unwavering, significant and deep. She has founded, chaired and served on countless committees, boards and projects with an aim toward helping women up.
Battaglia’s recent book – “Finding Justice: A History of Women Lawyers in Maryland Since 1642” – was many years in the making. Beginning in 2006, she sought the help of innumerable lawyers and judges with the book, a historical chronicle of female lawyers admitted to the Maryland bar. The telephone calls often began with “toots, I have a favor to ask of you.” And when Battaglia called you “toots,” you didn’t say no.
Whatever Battaglia sets her sights on – you can bank on it. She knows no boundaries. Much like Yoda – a much better looking, younger, and female Yoda – “Do or do not. There is no try.” And so it was. “Finding Justice” became her labor of love and, along with the whirling dervish life-force that is the Court of Special Appeals Judge Andrea Leahy as project chair, Battaglia saw to it that this project would succeed.
And succeed it did. Sponsored by the Maryland Women’s Bar Foundation and lifted up by hundreds of hours and donations of dozens of volunteer lawyers, judges, businesses and other generous people, as well as the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore law schools, the beautiful hardcover book was published last year to much acclaim and celebration.
Importance of mentoring
Battaglia spoke to a group of law students a few weeks ago, and what she said was illuminating. She told of her earliest days as an attorney, her four years in private practice. She described her start in 1974, where she was the first female attorney at Semmes Bowen & Semmes. There, she had for the first time a sense of how crucial mentors are. She had male mentors, of course, but, she explained, at that time in her life, there were no female mentors for her to consult and whose guidance she could trust and look to.
“I cannot imagine mentoring not playing a major role in my life,” she said. “It is my honor and my privilege.”
In the foreword to “Finding Justice,” Battaglia wrote: “In finding justice, a single individual may open doors, not just for herself, but for generations to come.”
Judge Lynne Battaglia is the living embodiment of that sentiment.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
John Bainbridge Jr.
Wesley D. Blakeslee
Arthur F. Fergenson
C. William Michaels
Tracy L. Steedman
H. Mark Stichel
Ferrier R. Stillman
Anwar L. Young
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the Board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the Bench, Bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, majority views and signed rebuttals will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.