Kathleen O’Leary has spent almost 33 years in court, 27 of them on the bench. She began as a young public defender, served as a trial court judge and now is a member of the California Court of Appeals. As a female judge, O’Leary has been a groundbreaker. As a judge committed to making the court system accessible to all, she has been an award-winner.
O’Leary graduated from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and worked for a state assembly member, the Orange County Office of the Public Defender and in private practice. Her judicial career began in 1981, when she served as a judge at the West Orange County Municipal Court. Five years later, she was appointed to the Superior Court of Orange County and was elected presiding judge in 1998. She was the first woman in Orange County to hold that position, and one of few female Superior Court presiding judges in California.
“Becoming the first female presiding judge of the Superior Court didn’t intimidate me,” O’Leary says. “I enjoyed a professional relationship with many of my colleagues when we were lawyers, and I believed viewed me as an equal. Also, I credit the Loyola University faculty, who never made gender an issue.”
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