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Her Honour Jane Richards Roth - an inspiration

Editorial Staff

Judge Jane Richards Roth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is an example of how a humble first job is no bar to professional success.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1935, Jane Richards was clearly bright: she took her BA from Smith College at only 21 years of age.

But in the mid-1950s, opportunities for women were limited and she joined the State Department as a typist and administrative assistant.

But Richards was determined not to be ordinary and she took overseas postings : 1956-1962; Tehran, Iran; 1957-1959; Salisbury, Rhodesia; 1960; Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, 1960-1962.

Then she changed tack and was accepted into Harvard Law School after which, in 1965, she entered private practice in Wilmington, Delaware where she remained until 1985 when she came to the attention of then US President Reagan.

Reagan appointed the by now Mrs Roth to U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, to fill a vacant seat. Her appointment was confirmed by the Senate on 1 November 1985, and received commission on 4 November, 1985. It is said that her appointment was recommended by her father-in-law, an influential member of the Republican Party.

Roth remained at that court until she was nominated by George H.W. Bush on 16 May, 1991 to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to fill a seat vacated by Collins Jacques Seitz. She was confirmed by the Senate on 27 June, 1991 and received commission on 2 July, 1991. She assumed "senior status" on 31 May, 2006.

Now aged 77, she continues to sit on the bench of the Court of Appeals.

While it is unlikely that, now, she will make it to the bench of the Supreme Court, her progress from typist to Senior Judge shows that humble beginnings do not have to mean a lifetime of mediocrity.