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Women's History Month: Celebrating the First Female Judicial Officers in California

This month, California courts and the Judicial Council of California join the nation in recognizing Women's History Month by commemorating the first women judges and justices at each state court level
Mar 8, 2024

In our first Women's History Month feature, read profiles of four women who helped advance equality in the state of California.

The state judicial branch's strategic plan includes the goal of Access, Fairness, Diversity, and Inclusion, where "The makeup of California's judicial branch will reflect the diversity of the state's residents."

According to the Judicial Council's latest annual judicial demographics report, reality continues to move toward that goal. As of Dec. 31, 2023, more than 40% of California's justices and judges are women, a 1 percentage point increase over the prior year and an increase of more than 14 percentage points since 2006.

Here's a quick look at the female judicial officers who helped continue that movement by shattering the glass ceiling at every level of the California judicial branch.

Judge Georgia Bullock

Georgia Bullock earned her law degree from the University of Southern California in 1914. During law school, she founded and participated in groups encouraging women's involvement in public office and policy.

After law school, Bullock served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles in 1917 and was the first female member of the Los Angeles Bar Association. She also volunteered as a juvenile probation officer and with the Women's Court, a division of the police court that prosecuted female defendants.

Bullock became a judge for the Women's Court in 1924, and later served as a Los Angeles municipal court judge. In 1931, she was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor James Rolph Jr. Bullock served on that court for 25 years.

Justice Annette Abbott Adams

Annette Abbott Adams became the first female justice in California in 1942 when she was appointed presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, by then-Governor Culbert Olson. She was also the first woman to serve on the California Supreme Court bench as a pro tempore judge. 

Adams' appointment to the state appellate court is just one of the many firsts she achieved in her lifetime. She was also one of the first women to graduate from the University of California with a law degree and the first female Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

Chief Justice Rose Bird

Rose Bird was the first woman appointed as a justice of the California Supreme Court and the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of California, and chair of the Judicial Council, serving in that role from 1977-1987.

Before her appointment to the bench: in 1965, she became the first female law clerk on the Nevada Supreme Court; in 1966, she was the first female deputy public defender hired in Santa Clara County; and in 1975, then-Governor Jerry Brown selected her as his Secretary of Agriculture, the first woman in the state to hold cabinet rank.