Monday, September 3, 2012

On September 3

Marion Janet Harron
On this day in  ...
... 1903, Marion Janet Harron was born in San Francisco. WikiPedia reduces Harron's 72 years of life to 2 sentences, calling her "a United States Tax Court judge (c.1936), and best known for having an affair with Lorena Hickok," a journalist who, WikiPedia continues, also "was reputed to be involved with Eleanor Roosevelt." There is, however, much more to Harron's life story than an account of her sexuality, as Georgetown Law Professor Dan Ernst detailed in his excellent Legal History Blog post: Harron began working for the poor and vulnerable even while a law student at California-Berkeley, where she served on the Law Review and from which she earned her law degree in 1926. She moved to New York where inter alia she helped a Columbia Law professor draft pleadings in labor-union-related litigation and was active in women's groups working for legal and social reform. During the New Deal she was a lawyer at the National Recovery Administration until the Supreme Court ruling in Schechter Poultry shut it down. Soon she was appointed to the U.S. Board of Tax Appeals, later renamed the U.S. Tax Court; her bid for renomination to that position spurred stiff opposition, apparently because she'd angered (male) lawyers by letting them know when she thought their advocacy of their clients was not up to par. As Professor Ernst wrote,  the General Counsel of what's now the Internal Revenue Service, who supported Harron, explained:
'He opined that other tax lawyers opposed Harron’s reappointment because “men do not like to be criticized by women. . . . [B]eing criticized by a male judge is bad enough, but when a woman takes [a case] over, it is just adding insult to injury.' 
Harron was reappointed and served till 1970, 2 years before her death.

(Prior September 3 posts are here, here, here, here, and here.)

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