Oakland County Circuit Court's
three women judges
are Jewish . . . and determined
Judge Hilda Gage
Special to The Jewish News
Judge Jessica Cooper
he number of women judges
isn't an oddity. We've become
commonplace," says Judge
Alice Gilbert of the Circuit
Court of Oakland County.
"What's much more visible, though, is
the number of women trial attorneys
today. At the time I started practicing
(in the late 1950s), I was the only
woman member of the Oakland
County Bar Association."
When the ballots were counted
after last November's election, Judge
Jessica Cooper, formerly the Chief
Judge of Southfield's 46th District
Court, was elected to the 6th Circuit
Court in Oakland County, joining
Alice Gilbert and Hilda Gage on a
bench containing a total of 14 judges.
It is a significant number when con-
sidering that in all of Michigan, only
the 3rd Circuit Court (Wayne County)
has a slightly higher percentage of
women on the bench, with nine women
and 26 men.
Attorneys say that they don't
think of judges in terms of gender.
"Male or female is not an issue," re-
ports one Birmingham attorney. "At-
torneys look for consistency and you
have to know that each judge is differ-
ent, with their own style."
Gilbert, Gage and Cooper readily
admit that they are very different in
many ways. However, one • common
factor is that they are all Jewish as
well as being women in a profession
that is still predominantly male.
Judge Alice L. Gilbert, 54, began
her career in the court system as a
justice of the peace in 1961. She was
nine months pregnant when she won
that election. "I saw a need to upgrade
the judicial system at the lower level,
so I ran for the bench," says Gilbert.
In 1968, she was elected to the
48th District Court in Birmingham
with more votes than any other dis-
trict candidate in the state. She was
instrumental in forming the Michigan
District Judges Association and
served as its president from 1969-71.
"When I started, we didn't put a
label on what we did," says Gilbert.
"That was before the women's move-
ment and the ERA. I had more battles
to get here. I am also not a member and
do not approve of any women's profes-
sional associations. They perpetuate a
sex difference which becomes diluting
to the profession."
In 1976, when she was elected to
the 6th Circuit Court as its first female
judge, she was readily accepted by her
colleagues. "They were apprised of my
career-and they knew I had lots of prior
experience in the court system. Being
a woman has never been a factor.
Aside from the politics of elected
office, Judge Gilbert serves her profes-
sion and community in other direct
ways. She is a member of the Ameri-
can Bar Association's Criminal Jus-
tice. Committee and its White Collar
Crime Committee, and she continues
to serve as a trustee of the Michigan