Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 25

FEATURE
Justice O'Connor was the most visible female judge of my formative
years. Before her appointment to the highest court in the land, I would
tell family members or teachers that I wanted to be a judge. When they
asked why, I responded, " I am the son my dad never had. " But because
of Justice O'Connor, I could just be me and still make him proud because
daughters could be judges too.
No, I'm not a United States Supreme
Court justice. I'm not even
an Article III judge, but that is
one of the great parts of Justice
O'Connor's legacy - she inspired
all of us from the small towns and
the big cities, from the children
of factory workers to the children
of politicians, from the administrative
adjudicators to the circuit
court judges.
In sixth grade, I used the Time
cover photocopy that I colored
as part of a report titled " The
Supreme Court. " I described in
22 handwritten pages (doublespaced)
the schooling needed to
become a lawyer and a judge, the
formation of the Supreme Court,
the Court's jurisdiction, and a
" special person in the subject
[of] the Supreme Court . . . Mrs.
Sandra Day O'Conner [sic]. " Not
only did I refer to her as " Mrs., "
I spelled her name wrong. And
perhaps the most embarrassing
flaw, I referred to her as " Sandra "
throughout the rest of the report!
Four days after the event, the national programs manager of the
National Constitution Center sent me an email:
Thank you for attending our event with Justice O'Connor last Friday.
The Justice was intrigued by a question you submitted during
the program that was not discussed during the Q&A portion of
the event. She had a chance
to go through the questions
after dinner on Friday evening
and mentioned that she
would like to respond to you
directly. Is it OK for me to
send Justice O'Connor your
contact information? I did not
want to release this information
without your permission.
Was she serious? Justice O'Connor
wanted my contact information? Of
course it was OK. I could not have
been more excited that day.
I never did get my report signed,
but that simple gesture from the
late justice validated my appreciation
and respect for her. It showed
me that one could be the first
woman to rise to our country's
highest court and still be humble,
encouraging, and admirable. It only
made me want to be more like her.
A copy of that Time magazine cover
hangs on the wall in my home office,
and every day I strive to be as
humble, encouraging, and admirable
as Justice O'Connor.
I do think she would have understood
if she had read my report. Certainly, I meant no disrespect as
I highlighted that she was the first woman Supreme Court justice, and
that " [w]hen I grow up I would like to follow in Mrs O'Conners [sic] footsteps. "
Judge
Melissa Lin Jones holding her sixth-grade report on U.S. Supreme Court
Justice O'Connor.
As we mourn her loss, I (like so
many others) " have good cause to
be thankful that [she] learned and
I had the opportunity to meet Justice O'Connor on March 15, 2013, just
days before her 83rd birthday, when she spoke at the National Constitution
Center in Philadelphia. I was the only attendee in a hot pink suit in a
sea of black and navy blue, and in my bag was my sixth-grade report. As
she left the stage, I told myself, " It's now or never. " I pushed my way to the
front of the room to within earshot and gained her attention, quickly explaining
that I was holding a report I had written about her almost 30
years ago. I asked her to sign it; of course she couldn't (and the Secret Service
agents didn't seem too happy that I had even approached to ask).
Being the persistent person my dad taught me to be, I had given the
same explanation and made the same request on an index card collected
from the audience for the Q&A session at the end of Justice
O'Connor's presentation. I even included my email address. What happened
next was just as impactful to me as that magazine cover.
practiced [her] craft so well, because we are the direct beneficiaries of
[her] experience and example, " to quote from the late justice's book The
Majesty of the Law.
To anyone who reads this and remembers the way Justice O'Connor
inspired them, I ask you to be an active part of her legacy - to be the
best you can be at the work you choose to do, and to be a role model
of what others can achieve because of the path you take.
Rest in peace, Your Honor. Your legacy reaches even farther than you
ever knew because you and your example live through us.
Melissa Lin Jones is an administrative appeals judge on the Benefits Review
Board of the United States Department of Labor. The views expressed in this
article do not represent the views of the U.S. government, the U.S. Department
of Labor, or the Benefits Review Board. They are solely the author's views in
her personal capacity. She is not acting as an agent or representative of the
U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Labor, or the Benefits Review Board
in this activity. There is no express or implied endorsement of the views or
activities of the author by the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Labor,
or the Benefits Review Board.
MARCH/APRIL 2024 * WASHINGTON LAWYER 25
Courtesy of Judge Melissa Lin Jones

Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Notice to Members
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Get to Know The Appellate Project
Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Taking the Stand
Worth Reading
Member Spotlight
On Further Review
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 4
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Notice to Members
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 12
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 22
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Get to Know The Appellate Project
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 36
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 39
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 43
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover4
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