Jean H. Norris

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Jean H. Norris, from a 1920 publication.
Jean H. Norris, from a 1921 newspaper.

Jean Hortense Norris (born January 25, 1877 – died after 1935) was an American judge, the first woman magistrate in New York City. She was appointed to the bench in 1919, but disbarred in 1931, for judicial malfeasance.

Early life[edit]

Jean Hortense Noonan was from Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Giles Noonan and Maria Theresa Ford Noonan.[1] Her father was a Union veteran of the American Civil War. She attended the Dominican Convent High School and Brooklyn Girls' High School. She earned law degrees from New York University in 1909 (LL.B.) and 1911 (LL.M.).[2][3]


Norris was part of the Tammany Hall political organization, working alongside judge George Washington Olvany. She was active in the suffrage movement in the 1910s. She represented married women teachers who appealed their school boards' denial of maternity leave or continued employment.[4][5] She also wrote about the laws concerning working conditions for women.[6][7] She served as president of the National Women Lawyers' Association in 1914.[8]

Norris became the first woman judge in New York in 1919.[9] Her first appointment to the bench was to fill a temporary opening, and then in 1920[10] moving into permanent positions on the Court of Domestic Relations and the Women's Day Court.[11] She was elected president of the New York State Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.[12] In 1923 she went on a world tour, to learn about how women offenders were handled in different court systems.[13][14]

The Hofstadter Committee[15] found that Norris was working in collaboration with the police, falsifying court records and profiting from the sale of bail bonds.[16] She also endorsed Fleischmann's Yeast as a health supplement, wearing her judge's robes in advertisements, a violation of professional ethics. Five judges of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that she was guilty on five counts of judicial malfeasance.[17] She was removed from the bench and disbarred in 1931.[18] She appealed the removal.[19]

In 1933, the former magistrate sued the producers of a play titled Four O'Clock, because it included a corrupt woman judge that she believed was a damaging reference to her own legal troubles.[20][21] The producers agreed to change the character's gender to settle the suit.[22] In 1936 her essay "The Marriage Problem" appeared in American newspapers, predicting a constitutional amendment to make marriage and divorce laws more uniform across the United States.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Jean Noonan married Thomas H. Norris in 1897, and was widowed when he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, apparently by accident, in 1899.[24]


  1. ^ John William Leonard, ed., Woman's Who's who of America (American Commonwealth Printing 1914): 601.
  2. ^ "Mrs. Norris Ousted as Unfit for Bench; Guilty on 5 Charges" New York Times (June 26, 1931): 1. via ProQuest
  3. ^ "Jean Norris Defends Bonding House Link; Severe in Vice Cases" New York Times (February 12, 1931): 1. via ProQuest
  4. ^ Department Reports of the State of New York (J. B. Lyon 1915): 631-636.
  5. ^ "Stand Taken by Women Lawyers on the Subject of Married Women Teachers" Women Lawyers' Journal (April 1914): 52.
  6. ^ Jean H. Norris, "United States Supreme Court on the Question of Working Hours for Women" Women Lawyers' Journal (March 1914): 42.
  7. ^ Jean H. Norris, "Oregon Law Fixing Wage Rate for Women Declared Constitutional" Women Lawyers' Journal (May 1914): 58.
  8. ^ "Lawyers at the Convention" Women Lawyers' Journal (October–December 1919): 2.
  9. ^ "Woman Sits on Bench" New York Times (October 29, 1919): 13. via ProQuest
  10. ^ "Woman Succeeds Curran" New York Times (January 3, 1920): 15. via ProQuest
  11. ^ "National Meeting of Women Lawyers" Women Lawyers' Journal (April 1921): 21.
  12. ^ "Rivalry at Club Election" New York Times (May 8, 1921): 18. via ProQuest
  13. ^ "Magistrate Jean Norris Will Tour the World to Learn how Women Offenders are Treated" New York Times (January 23, 1923): 23. via ProQuest
  14. ^ "Woman Jurist is Girdling Globe to Study Courts" Honolulu Star-Bulletin (May 7, 1923): 4. via Newspapers.comopen access
  15. ^ "Acts Misconstrued, Judge Norris Says, Fighting Removal" New York Times (June 4, 1931): 1. via ProQuest
  16. ^ "Mrs. Norris Admits She convicted Girl without Evidence" New York Times (June 25, 1931): 1. via ProQuest
  17. ^ "Norris Ousted" Time (July 6, 1931).
  18. ^ Herbert Mitgang, The Man Who Rode the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury (Fordham University Press 1996): 191-195. ISBN 9780823217229
  19. ^ "Mrs. Norris Fights to Appeal Removal" New York Times (August 28, 1931): 2. via ProQuest
  20. ^ "Producers of Play Sued by Jean Norris" New York Times (February 19, 1933): 25. via ProQuest
  21. ^ "Reply in Mrs. Norris' Suit" New York Times (February 21, 1933): 17. via ProQuest
  22. ^ "'Four O'Clock' Suit Settled" New York Times (May 24, 1933): 24. via ProQuest
  23. ^ Jean H. Norris, "The Marriage Problem" Murray Eagle (January 2, 1936): 6. via Newspapers.comopen access
  24. ^ "The Revolver was Loaded" Brooklyn Daily Eagle (May 9, 1899): 16. via Newspapers.comopen access

External links[edit]