McCafferty sworn in as NH district court’s first female judge
Landya McCafferty was sworn in yesterday as the 17th judge of the U.S. District Court, the first woman to ever be appointed to the state’s federal bench.
Flanked by family and friends, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte – both pioneering women themselves – McCafferty vowed to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
McCafferty officially assumed office in December and succeeded Judge Steven McAuliffe, who took senior status, a form of semiretirement, last April. McCafferty previously served as a federal magistrate judge, prosecuted professional misconduct cases at the state Supreme Court and worked as a public defender and a civil litigator, all in New Hampshire.
McCafferty joins two other active judges on the court: Paul Barbadoro and Joseph Laplante, the chief judge.
The federal court was the state’s only remaining judicial enclave to have never had a female justice. Speaking during the ceremony, Judge Sandra Lynch, chief justice of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the first woman to be appointed to that court, described McCafferty’s invocation as “the last of the firsts.”
“Does it matter if we have women on the judiciary?” Lynch said. “Of course it matters. Not only should the judiciary reflect the state’s female population, but it is simply true that women bring different life experiences than men do. And it is important that a system of justice reflect those different life experiences.”
But Shaheen, who broke ground as the state’s first female governor and its first female U.S. senator, said McCafferty had earned her spot on merit before anything else.
“It’s really not Landya’s gender that got her here today,” Shaheen said. “It’s her professional experience and her personal qualities that really make her stand out.”
Ayotte, the state’s first female attorney general, also underlined McCafferty’s credentials. She noted that they had each gotten their start at the McLane Law Firm in Manchester, and had since had a number of professional interactions.
“I feel like I’ve been following you, Landya,” Ayotte said. “And everywhere you’ve been, you’ve just been excellent.”
McCafferty was sworn in by Norman Stahl, her longtime mentor and a senior judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. She devoted her remarks to thanking Stahl and others who had influenced her professional arc.
“Thank you for always being there for me as a mentor and friend,” McCafferty told him after the oath. She then quipped, “Maybe now that I am an Article III judge, I will finally be able to call you by your first name.”
Other jests ensued. At one point McCafferty noted that she and Shaheen shared an affinity for basketball. “Oddly enough,” she said, turning to the senator, “I will now spend the rest of my career on a court.”
“And thanks to you,” she added, “I will be sitting on the bench.”
But McCafferty, a Portsmouth resident and graduate of Harvard University and Northeastern University School of Law, also assumed a more serious tone. She appeared humbled and honored by the ceremony, which was attended by some 300 guests.
“I want to leave you with a simple phrase that I heard recently,” she told the crowd. “Three words that sum up the mission of this court, and what should be the mission of every school teacher, coach, mentor and everyone else.”
“Honor all people,” she said. “As the newest district court judge, I pledge to keep those three words in my head and my heart at all times.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)