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January 31, 2022 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

The Finns: Proudly Raising Hell

By Hon. Richard Ginkowski, Pleasant Prairie, WI

In the ABA Judicial Division we know her as “Ellie” but Elizabeth Finn, recently retired as presiding judge of the Glendale (Ariz.) Municipal Court after serving almost 43 years on the bench, comes from a family of Arizona lawyers with a stellar work ethic and legendary commitment to public service.

Ellie’s mother, the late Ruth Finn, was one of the first women admitted to the Arizona State University Law School, entering when she was 48 years old and graduating summa cum laude in 1970, two years before Ellie.

Before becoming an attorney, Ruth worked in her husband’s law firm.  One year before the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, Herbert Finn partnered pro bono with Hayzel B. Daniels, Arizona’s first black lawyer and, later, judge, in successful legal battles to desegregate Arizona schools.  The Finn firm also fought discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The proverbial “apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”  Ellie graduated from ASU Law in 1972 and her sister, Alice Finn Gartell, also graduated from ASU’s Law School in 1989 summa cum laude. Ellie’s son, Jesse Finn Turner graduated in 2005 making the Finn family the first third generation family from the Law School.  Alice became general counsel for the Arizona Education Association and Jesse is a Maricopa County Public Defender in Phoenix.

To honor the family’s history of public service and civil rights advocacy, the Finn family established “The Legacy of Ruth G. Finn Scholarship: Finn, Gartell, Turner” to assist female ASU Law students who embody these qualities and contribute to the Finn family legacy of public service. Ellie is also working on donating Herb and Ruth’s documents detailing their contributions to achieving justice for marginalized Arizonans.

Shortly after Ruth Finn passed away in 2019 at the age of 98 Ellie recalled, “We were all told it was our responsibility, our duty, to make the world a better place. She motivated me to find my passions and drive to change domestic violence laws and practices, help the mentally ill and homeless. I’m am blessed to have inherited some of her passion and drive.”

Even as Elizabeth and Alice paid tribute to their mother, they said the most fitting tribute came from former Ariz. State Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez: “Ruth Finn raised Hell and the world is better for it.” 

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