January 25, 1915|
Ida Grove, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||October 27, 2002
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||University of California,
Berkeley (BA, JD)
Mildred Lillie (January 25, 1915 – October 27, 2002) was a California judge whom President Richard Nixon considered for the Supreme Court of the United States in 1971. Lillie's potential candidacy for the high court was ended by an "unqualified" rating from the American Bar Association.
Lille was born in Ida Grove, Iowa, but moved with her mother to California's San Joaquin Valley as a child following her parents' failed marriage. She worked at a local cannery during the Great Depression and later as both a cook and a floor detective at Sears to earn her tuition to law school.
Lillie obtained her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California. She served as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1942 to 1946 and then entered the private practice of law for about two years until Republican Governor Earl Warren appointed her to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1947. She was next appointed to Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1949. In 1958 Lillie, a Democrat, was appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal by Republican Governor Goodwin Knight.
In 1969 President Richard Nixon nominated Clement Haynsworth for a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court created by the resignation of Abe Fortas. Haynsworth was rejected by the United States Senate. In 1970 Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell, who also was rejected by the Senate. Nixon then nominated Harry Blackmun, who was confirmed.
In spite of the rejections of Haynsworth and Carswell, Nixon announced that he would nominate Lillie and Hershel Friday to the high bench. Neither was well regarded. Friday was a former member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates; Lillie was then a little-known judge on an intermediate state appellate court in California. After the ABA reported both Friday and Lillie as unqualified, Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William H. Rehnquist for the vacancies instead, and both were confirmed.
Widowed from her first husband, Cameron Lillie, Lillie remarried A. V. Falcone, a leading figure in the Los Angeles area Catholic Church. In part due to their charitable endeavors, Lillie earned an appointment as a Papal Dame. The Los Angeles County Law Library is named after Lillie.
Lillie remained on the Second District Court of Appeal long after she was considered for the U.S. Supreme Court, until she died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 87. At her death, Lillie held the distinction in California of serving the longest as an appellate judge (44 years) and judicial officer (56 years), bookending a career which saw her become the youngest judge assigned to sit in criminal court in Los Angeles County. Lillie lived to see Sandra Day O'Connor become the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1981.
- Justice Mildred Lillie: She Was Incomparable Editorial, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Oct. 29, 2002
- To Mildred Lillie, Gender Was No Impediment Column, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Oct. 29, 2002
- Personal Recollections of Justice Lillie Metropolitan News-Enterprise, "Perspectives column, Oct. 30, 2002
- Justice Lillie Remembered for Hard Work, Long Years of Service News story, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Oct. 31, 2002