Caroline Glassman, 90, 1st woman to serve on Maine supreme court
By DAVID SHARP Associated Press July 14, 2013 8:22PM
This undated photo provided by the Cleaves Law Library in Portland, Maine, shows Caroline Glassman, the first woman to serve on Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court. Glassman died Wednesday, July 11, 2013 at Maine Medical Center in Portland. She was 90. (AP Photo/Cleaves Law Library)
Updated: August 16, 2013 6:18AM
PORTLAND, Maine — Caroline Duby Glassman, who rose to become the first woman on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after starting her climb to the top of the male-dominated legal profession during the 1950s, has died. She was 90.
A role model for women in Maine’s legal profession, Ms. Glassman was appointed to the state’s highest court by Gov. Joseph Brennan in 1983, two years after the death of her husband, Harry P. Glassman, also a state supreme court justice.
She died Wednesday at Maine Medical Center.
“Justice Caroline Glassman was a legal force of nature. She broke the glass ceiling on the bench with such style, grace and passion that she carved out a path for so many of us that followed,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, the first woman to lead the state supreme court, said last week.
Saufley, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created on the supreme court by Ms. Glassman’s retirement in 1997, described her as a “role model, a mentor and a good friend.”
Ms. Glassman “could be tenacious to the point of being stubborn” but never gave in on issues of justice, Saufley said, even working in retirement on sentencing reform.
“Many of us have lost a good friend, and [the] world has lost a stalwart supporter of individual rights,” Saufley said.
Ms. Glassman began her practice as a title attorney in Salem, Ore., and then as a trial attorney in San Francisco. In Maine, she launched a legal practice in Portland, earning a reputation as a hard-working, detail-oriented attorney.
Colleagues described her as a hard-working, no-nonsense lawyer.
“She had this steely look in her eye — that she knew what she was going to do and she was going to do it. She was respectful of the judge and the jury but she also wasn’t going to be pushed around,” said retired Chief Justice Daniel Wathen, who met Ms. Glassman in the 1960s and later served with her as associates on the Supreme Judicial Court before he became chief justice.
“Her strong suit on the court was that she prepared really heavily for every case. She was really detailed driven. She knew the record. She knew each and everything to know about each and every case,” he said.
Although she was the second Glassman to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court, she earned her appointment in her own right for her achievements, said Attorney General Janet Mills.
“When Gov. Brennan appointed her, he remarked that there was no question about who the first woman on the Maine supreme court should be,” Mills said. “She earned it.”
Born in Baker City, Ore., Ms. Glassman grew up on a cattle farm and attended classes in a one-room schoolhouse before entering Willamette University School of Law over the objections of her father, Mills said. Later, her law school dean suggested she find another profession because she’d be alone in a man’s world, she said.
Ms. Glassman’s legal career led the Maine Bar Association to create an award in her name that’s given each year to a woman who’s worked to remove barriers in the legal profession, acted as a role model to women, or worked to educate people about women in the legal profession.
Mills was the recipient of the award in 2009.
“She was like a mother to us, the women in the bar,” said Mills, who became emotional talking about Ms. Glassman. “She’s an icon. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”
Much attention was placed on her for being the first woman on the court. But she didn’t make a big deal about it, instead focusing on going on about her work.
“She cast the die. If someone became a judge, you didn’t think about whether they were male or female. You just thought whether they were a good judge,” Wathen said.