Shirley Hufstedler

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Shirley Hufstedler
Shirley Hufstedler, November 12, 2007.jpg
1st United States Secretary of Education
In office
November 30, 1979 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Patricia Harris (Health, Education, and Welfare)
Succeeded by Ted Bell
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 12, 1968 – November 30, 1979
Appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Robert Boochever
Personal details
Born Shirley Ann Mount
(1925-08-24)August 24, 1925
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Died March 30, 2016(2016-03-30) (aged 90)
Glendale, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Seth Hufstedler
Education University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (BBA)
Stanford University (LLB)

Shirley Ann Mount Hufstedler (August 24, 1925 – March 30, 2016) was an American lawyer and judge who served as the first United States Secretary of Education, under President Jimmy Carter from November 30, 1979 to January 20, 1981. At the time of her secretarial appointment, she was the highest ranking woman in the federal judiciary.


Shirley Mount Hufstedler was born August 24, 1925 in Denver, Colorado. Her mother's side of the family emigrated to the United States from Germany and faced many hardships trying to survive as pioneers in Missouri.[1] Deaths, sicknesses, and poverty were very much a part of Hufstelder's family's quality of life when coming to America. Her great grandfather was killed in a work related accident, leaving her great grandmother to fend for herself and for her three children. Years later, her mother met and married her father, who was a naval officer in World War I.[1] Hufstedler's father worked in construction and during the Great Depression the family had to move frequently so that he could find work.[1] As a result, she constantly changed schools and moved towns starting from second grade.[1] Some of these locations included, New Mexico, Montana, California, and Wyoming.[1]

A friend of her father's and famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, became a close friend and mentor of Hufstedler.[2] In regard to their relationship, Hufstedler said, "He had a great deal of influence on what's happened to me because of his confidence in me".[2]

She attended the University of New Mexico (B.B.A. 1945) and Stanford Law School (LL.B. 1949).[3] Hufstedler met her husband, Seth Hufstedler, at law school and they married in 1949.[4] They had one child, Dr. Steve Hufstedler, and four grandchildren.[4]

On March 30, 2016, Hufstedler died in Glendale, California, from cerebrovascular disease at the age of 90.[5][6] She is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale).


Hufstedler had a distinguished career at the highest levels of legal and public service. Initial attempts to begin her career after graduating proved to be difficult. Her graduating class from law school included only two women, as three of them dropped out, and although she graduated at the top of her class, she was still a woman in a male dominated profession and she struggled to find employment opportunities.[7] She started writing briefs for other lawyers and picked up other similar tasks. Ultimately, she opened up on her own an office in Los Angeles in 1951.[7]

United States Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler at Miami-Dade Community College

From there, she managed to make her way to the Attorney General's Office. She served as Special Legal Consultant to the Attorney General of California in the complex Colorado River litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court from 1960 to 1961. In 1961, she was appointed Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, by Governor Pat Brown.[8] a position to which she was elected in 1962 as a Democrat. At the time she was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, she was the only female in a group of 119 men.[9]

In 1966, she was appointed Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeals.[10] President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1968.[10] She was not the first woman to serve on a federal Court of Appeals (the second after Florence Allen); but, for at least part of her tenure, she was the only woman serving among approximately 100 federal judges nationwide. She served on the Court of Appeals for eleven years before President Jimmy Carter appointed her to be the first U.S. Secretary of Education in 1979.[11]

As the first Secretary of Education, Hufstedler's agenda has been depicted as being focused on strengthening state and federal interrelationships, as well as educational equity.[12] Her dedication toward educational needs helped set precedent in the importance of its existence, even later preventing President Ronald Reagan's attempts to dismantle it all together after he beat President Carter in 1980.[13]

In 1981, Hufstedler returned to private life, teaching and practicing law. She was a partner in the firm Hufstedler & Kaus, now merged into Morrison & Foerster. She taught across the country, including stints at the University of California at Irvine and Santa Cruz, the University of Iowa, the University of Vermont, Stanford Law School, and the University of Oregon.[14]


Hufstedler's entire career represents an expansive archive of accomplishments. She served on boards of trustees, governing boards and visiting committees for numerous foundations, institutions, corporations and universities. Some of her accomplishments are listed below:

Honorary doctorate degrees[edit]

She was the recipient of almost 20 honorary doctoral degrees from American universities. They include:

  • The Claremont University Center.[15]
  • Columbia University.[15]
  • Georgetown University.[15]
  • Gonzaga University.[15]
  • *Hood College.[15]
  • Mount Holyoke College.[15]
  • University of Michigan.[15]
  • University of New Mexico.[15]
  • Occidental College.[15]
  • University of the Pacific.[15]
  • University of Pennsylvania.[15]
  • Rutgers University.[15]
  • *University of Southern California.[15]
  • Smith College.[15]
  • *Syracuse University.[15]
  • Tufts University.[15]
  • Tulane University.[15]
  • University of Wyoming.[15]
  • *Yale University.[15]


Her awards includes:

  • The Order of the Coif.[16]
  • The Marshall-Wythe Medal (College of William and Mary).[16]
  • St. Thomas More Medal (Loyola Law School).[16]
  • Golden Plate Award (American Academy of Achievement).[16]
  • Woman of the Year Award (Los Angeles Times).[16]
  • Woman of the Year Award (Ladies Home Journal).[16]
  • University of California at Los Angeles Medal.[16]
  • Herbert O. Harley Award (American Judicature Society).[16]
  • Earl Warren Medal (University of Judaism).[16]
  • Louis D. Brandeis Medal (University of Louisville).[16]
  • Shattuck-Price Memorial Award (Los Angeles County Bar Association).[16]
  • Stanford Law School Award of Merit.[16]
  • American Bar Association's 1995 Gold Medal.[16]
  • Margaret Brent Award (ABA Commission on Women in the Legal Profession).[16]
  • The Learned Hand Award.[16]
  • She the first woman to receive the American Bar Association medal.[17]

Memberships and affiliations[edit]

  • Hufstedler was the first woman on the Council of the American Law Institute.[17]
  • She was on the Board of Directors of Harman International Industries.[16]
  • She was the emeritus director of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Salzburg Seminar.[16]
  • She was a trustee of the California Institute of Technology.[16]
  • She was an active member of the following: American Bar Association, American Law Institute, American Judicature Society, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Pacific Council, International Association of Women Lawyers, Institute for Judicial Administration, Los Angeles Bar Association, National Association of Women Lawyers, State Bar of California, Town Hall, Federal Bar Association and Women Lawyers Association.[16]
  • At some point, Hufstedler had also previously served on the following: Board of Trustees of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Institute for Judicial Administration, Natural Resources Defense Council, Council of the American Law Institute, and the governing boards of the United States Military Academy, Institute for Civil Justice, Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the University of Southern California Law Center, the Institute for Court Management, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Advisory Council for Appellate Justice, American Judicature Society, Center for National Policy and Occidental College.[16]
  • She guest lectured in ten foreign countries: England, France, Bulgaria, Israel, Jordan, Iran, India, Nepal, Malaysia, and Sweden.[16]
  • She was a delegate to the Nuclear Arms Control with Erwin Griswald from the Lawyers Alliance. At such time, she was also involved in negotiations with the Soviet Union, which lasted for almost a decade.[16]

Hufstedler was considered to be a candidate for the Supreme Court if a vacancy had occurred under the Jimmy Carter presidency.[18][19]

Selected opinions[edit]

One of her best known opinions was a dissent she wrote in the case, Lou v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), where the majority decided that the San Francisco Unified School District had not violated the Fourteenth Amendment by inadequately providing supplemental language support for non-English speakers.[20] Hufstedler argued that the decision paralleled Brown v. Board of Education. Subsequently, the United States Supreme Court agreed with her and overturned the Ninth Circuit's decision.[20]

Another notable opinion of Hufstedler's is from, Dietemann v. Time, Inc. (1971), in which she wrote the majority opinion. Under the employment of Life Magazine, reporters would deceive their way into private homes and then record information and interactions between individuals in the home.[20] Hufstedler affirmed the lower court's decision that the actions taken against the occupant were an invasion of privacy.[20] This helped provide clarity on freedom of press and specifically, the limitations that the First Amendment has on protecting the freedom of press.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Roberts, Sam (31 March 2016). "Shirley Hufstedler, Judge and Cabinet's First Education Secretary, Dies at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Ninth Circuit Recalls Shirley M. Hufstedler". Retrieved 2018-03-07. 
  5. ^ Bloomberg Shirley Hufstedler, first US Education Secretary dies at 90
  6. ^ "Shirley Hufstedler, Pioneering Judge and First Cabinet-Level Education Secretary, Is Dead at 90". The New York March 31, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b School, Stanford Law. "Judge Hufstedler: A Lifetime of Achievement | Stanford Law School". Stanford Law School. Retrieved 2018-03-07. 
  8. ^ School, Stanford Law. "Remembrance: Shirley Hufstedler, LLB '49 | Stanford Law School". Stanford Law School. Retrieved 2018-04-04. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Sobel, Robert (1990). Biographical Directory of the United States Executive Branch, 1774-1989. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-313-26593-8. 
  11. ^ Vile, John R. (2003). Great American Judges: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 558. ISBN 978-1-57607-989-8. 
  12. ^ Stallings, D. T. (2002). "A Brief History of the U.S. Department of Education, 1979-2002". The Phi Delta Kappan. 83 (9): 677–683. 
  13. ^ Raffel, Jeffrey A. (1998). Historical Dictionary of School Segregation and Desegregation: The American Experience. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313295027. 
  14. ^ Wharton, Joseph (1995). "ABA Honors Shirley Hufstedler: Former federal judge is first woman to be awarded ABA Medal". ABA Journal. 81 (8): 111–111. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v
  17. ^ a b Wharton, Joseph (1995). "ABA Honors Shirley Hufstedler: Former federal judge is first woman to be awarded ABA Medal". ABA Journal. 81 (8): 111–111. 
  18. ^ Newman, Roger K. (2009). The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law. Yale University Press. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-300-11300-6. 
  19. ^ Biskupic, Joan (2005). Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice. Ecco Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-06-059018-5. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "Ninth Circuit Recalls Shirley M. Hufstedler". Retrieved 2018-03-07. 

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External links[edit]

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Robert Boochever
Political offices
Preceded by
Patricia Harris
as United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
United States Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Ted Bell