This issue honors multiple “family law trailblazers”—individuals who have made pioneering contributions to the family law field. We began developing this issue not long after the passing of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose work as a women’s rights advocate helped to shape the development of modern family law. The people featured here held positions similar to those she held during her remarkable career as judge, advocate, and professor.
The first two individuals featured in this issue were judges. In Judith S. Kaye: A Chief Judge for Families and Children, Professor Andrew Schepard discusses how Chief Judge Kaye (1938–2016), the first woman judge and then chief judge on the New York Court of Appeals, promoted the interests of children through her administrative role in addition to her decisions. As a judge, she authored pathbreaking decisions on child welfare and domestic violence, as well as influential dissents concerning LGBT rights and children’s interests. As a judicial administrator, she promulgated a rule promoting child-directed legal representation and also created courts that specialized in assisting survivors of domestic violence. Professor Schepard includes excerpts from the transcript of interviews Judge Kaye gave for an oral history project, and thus his review of her many contributions is infused with her own perspectives on her work.
This issue also includes two articles about Judge Jane Bolin (1908–2007), a New York City Family Court judge who was the first Black woman judge in the United States and the first Black woman attorney at the New York City Law Department. In Judge Jane Bolin: Ahead of the Times, Part I, A Look at an Important Decision on Juvenile Interviews, In re Rutane, Judge Patria Frias-Colón and Irwin Weiss analyze a 1962 decision in which Judge Bolin suppressed a youth’s confession in a juvenile delinquency case because of the police conduct and the circumstances in which the confession was obtained. This decision was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in In re Gault,1 the landmark case in which the Court found that due process protections apply in juvenile justice proceedings. Judge Jane Bolin: Ahead of the Times, Part II, A Look at Her Child Support Cases focuses on Judge Bolin’s work in the area of child support, at the Law Department and then as a judge, at a time before child support practice was transformed by constitutional law gender equity cases and federal requirements for child support guidelines. Judge Bolin’s legacy has been discussed in multiple news articles concerning the recent nomination and confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.2 We are excited to feature here these two articles highlighting some of Judge Bolin’s contributions in the area of family law.
This issue also includes articles about two individuals whose advocacy work contributed to the development of family law and civil rights. In The Ties That Bind: What Pauli Murray Teaches Us About Race, Family, Slavery, and Inequality, Professor Jessica Dixon Weaver considers the family connections and experiences of Pauli Murray (1910–1985), a pioneering civil rights and gender equality advocate. Murray’s work as a law student influenced the legal strategy in Brown v. Board of Education,3 and her gender equality work led to her being listed on the brief (co-authored by then-attorney Ginsburg) in Reed v. Reed,4 the first U.S. Supreme Court case finding gender-based discrimination unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Murray wrote about her family history from before the Civil War, including Black relatives who were born into slavery and others who were born free, and White relatives who were slaveowners. Weaver discusses Murray’s perspective on her family history and how that history “is about the ties that bind us as families in America.”
In How to Bring Your Kids Up Queer: Family Law Realism, Then and Now, Professors Kris Franklin and Noa Ben-Asher write about Paula Ettelbrick (1955–2011). Ettelbrick was a pre-Obergefell5 LGBTQ+ rights leader who supported progressive alternatives to same-sex marriage but “recognized that . . . when it came to children, the stakes required sharply drawn lines that unequivocally placed queer parents inside of them.” Her pioneering advocacy to recognize de facto parental rights in same-sex relationships was initially rejected by the New York Court of Appeals (with a strong dissent by Chief Judge Kaye), but her advocacy work was vindicated after her death.6 In honoring Ettelbrick, Professors Franklin and Ben-Asher describe her approach as “family law realism,” incorporating a “core emphasis on having legal structures recognize the reality and lives of queer people.” The authors discuss the significance of Ettelbrick’s conception of family and emphasis on children for current conflicts impacting the rights of transgender youth.
Finally, Tributes to Family Law Scholars Who Helped Us Find Our Path is the product of a wonderful collaboration of scholars writing about more senior scholars who inspired and influenced them professionally and personally. Organized and edited by Professor J. Thomas Oldham and co-edited by Professor Paul Kurtz, this article includes tributes to Professors Homer H. Clark Jr. (1918–2015), Peggy Cooper Davis, Mary Ann Glendon, Herma Hill Kay (1934–2017), Robert Levy, Marygold (Margo) Shire Melli (1926–2018), Martha Minow, Robert Mnookin, Twila Perry, Dorothy E. Roberts, Carol Sanger, and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse. The tributes were written by, respectively, Professors Ann Laquer Estin, Melissa Murray, June Carbone, Barbara A. Atwood, Paul M. Kurtz, J. Thomas Oldham and Bruce M. Smyth, Brian H. Bix, Elizabeth S. Scott, R.A. Lenhardt, Jessica Dixon Weaver, Solangel Maldonado, and Sacha M. Coupet. Through these tributes, the authors beautifully capture the contributions the featured scholars have made through their teaching, writing, mentoring, and policy work.
We hope that you enjoy this Family Law Trailblazers issue and that the featured articles provide inspiration for others in the ever-changing field of family law.
Lisa F. Grumet, Editor in Chief, Family Law Quarterly
Director, Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families
Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School
1. 387 U.S. 1 (1967).
2. See, e.g., Dan VanDeMortel, The Ground-Breaking Legacy of Judge Jane Bolin, Recorder (Mar. 25, 2022, 4:02 PM), https://www.law.com/therecorder/2022/03/25/the-ground-breaking-legacy-of-judge-jane-bolin/; Angela Robinson, Ketanji Brown Jackson Is Standing on the Shoulders of Black Female Pioneers, Wash. Post (Mar. 21, 2022, 9:50 AM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/03/21/ketanji-brown-jackson-is-standing-shoulders-black-female-pioneers/; Olivia B. Waxman, The History Behind the First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Time (Feb. 25, 2022, 11:26 AM), https://time.com/6146624/history-first-black-woman-supreme-court-justice-nominee/; David Levine, Black Judge Jane Bolin Paved Path to Ketanji Brown Jackson Nomination, Times Union (Feb. 18, 2022), https://www.timesunion.com/hudsonvalley/culture/article/Judge-Jane-Bolin-paved-the-way-for-Black-women-16920732.php.
3. 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
4. 404 U.S. 71 (1971).
5. Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015).
6. Alison D. v. Virginia M., 572 N.E.2d 27 (N.Y. 1991), overruled by Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., 61 N.E.3d 488 (N.Y. 2016).