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Rose Spector ALAN POGUE vA Justice and Gender BY VICKI MAYER jp USTICE ROSE SPECTOR SITS apart from her Texas Supreme Court colleagues in more ways than one. First, she is a woman, the first woman ever elected to the state’s highest civil appeals court. Second, she is a feminist in a state where legislators still argue over whether spouse rape is an oxymoron and where a woman’s right to access to an abortion is an issue every two years when the Legislature convenes. Since her election to the Texas Supreme Court in 1990, Spector has emerged as a soft-spoken but determined defender of women’s rights, which comes as no surprise to the people who know her well. “She’ll face the crowd even when the crowd was against her,” said Arthur Gochman, a San Antonio lawyer who has known Spector since her high-school days. Spector, who recently was named Woman of the Year by the Texas Women’s Political Caucus, has a smile that radiates a kind of “we shall overcome” attitude towards the forces of sex discrimination. To sit in the large leather chair in the Supreme Court office, she already has overcome a number of obstacles. She was married and had two children in the 1960s when, after a suggestion from a friend, she decided to enter St. Mary’s Law School. “A friend of mine had gone to law school and her husband … did not want her to continue,” Spector said. “She said, ‘You know, you ought to do it.'” Spector was one of a handful of women who graduated with the class of 1965. “Another woman, Mary Ann Crosby, finished first in our class. I finished second, and neither one of us were offered any jobs,” Spector remembers. “The man that was third [in the class] immediately went to work for a big law firm.” At one large law firm, Spector found that she could not be interviewed because “the senior partner supposedly said, ‘Oh no, if we’re all sitting around and we want to use bad language, we don’t, want a woman around.'” She started working at a small law firm, where she had worked as a a briefing clerk when she was in law school. In 1969, Spector was invited to go to work at Gochman’s law office, where she worked on one of the first lawsuits seeking equal education financing, Rodriguez v. San Antonio Independent Vicki Mayer is a student at Brown University and was an intern at the Observer this past summer. School District. In that case, in federal court, the plaintiffs attempted to compel the state to fund property-poor school districts. In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there was no provision in the United States Constitution requiring such an equalization. A generation later, the Texas Supreme Court declared that unequal financing in public education violated the state Constitution. Gochman said Spector was an “intelligent and stable” lawyer who chose her own cases because she didn’t want to “practice any bad-guy politics. San Antonio trial lawyer Frank Herrera, who worked with Spector on the Rodriguez case, said her sensitivity toward many issues is informed by her having to overcome the many bathers encountered by a Jewish woman in Texas. In 1974, Spector moved onto the bench Bexar County’s Court at Law No. 5; she served two terms on the misdemeanor court before she moved to the 131st District Court, where she served three terms. Judge Carolyn Spears-Petersen of District Court 224 in Bexar County remembers Spector as a progressive trial judge and one of the first female judges elected in the state. Spears-Petersen characterized Spector as a women’srights supporter. “She looks at the whole picture but is sensitive to women’s issues,” SpearsPeterson said. At 58 , after 18 years as a trial judge, Spector_decided to run for the Supreme Court. A 1991 photo of the all-male Supreme Court in the Texas Bar Journal inspired Spector to run. Spector hung an enlarged copy of the photo behind her desk in the court house. “People would walk in and I’ d say `What’s wrong with that picture? Some peo ple wouldn’t get it and some people would know imme diately,” Spector said. Although two women had served on the state’s Supreme Court, no woman had been elected to the Court. The for mer female justices, Ruby Kless Sundock and Barbara Culver, were appointed by former Governor Bill Clem ents, but when their seats came up for election, Sundock did not run for the post in 1982 and Culver was defeated by former Congressman Jack Hightower in 1988. Spector had long been well connected to a small group of influential women in Texas politics, who later supported her campaign. Ernestine Glossbrenner, who was then a state representative from Alice, knew Spector as a district judge who was “always as active as you could be on women’s issues and she’s been supportive to other women trying to gain elective office.” Spector and Glossbrenner helped form a group in the 1970s with Ann Richards, who was then a Travis County commissioner, and Kathy Whitmire, who was then Houston comptroller, “to build networks between women in elected positions” in a state political system dominated by men. Spector also had support from various legal and civil libertarian groups. She was a card-carrying member of the San Antonio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to San Antonio lawyer Gerald Goldstein. 8 OCTOBER 15, 1993