Family comes first for
JUDGE MARY LEMMON
By Shonna Riggs - Mar 08, 2007
Judge Mary Ann Lemmon remembers when the “scales of justice” had to be balanced between her career and family.
Back then her home was filled with six children, her most precious treasures.
And family is still No. 1 for her.
“My family has always been of utmost importance,” Lemmon told the Herald-Guide.
"My husband and I managed to raise six children who are making a difference in the world. I feel fortunate that I was able to manage my career, too.
"Raising a family and having a career in the legal profession can be challenging.
“My first child was born on the first day of my second year in law school, and my other five children were born between college semesters.”
Lemmon graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and began practicing law at her father's firm in Hahnville.
"As a child, I would spend time at my father's office, and I tried to be just like him,” she said.
Lemmon studied her father’s “practical approach to law” and continues to value the lessons he taught her.
"People would come into my dad's law office angry as hornets on both sides of an argument and by the time they'd leave you couldn't even tell that they were mad with each other," she said.
"He was more than a lawyer, he was a counselor and humanitarian - these are components that I incorporated into the way I handle myself in the courtroom.
Lemmon was appointed to the U.S. District Federal Court in 1996. Her first trial was a death-penalty murder case.
"I was nervous deciding this case - it was a baptism by fire,” she said.
“Your life comes to a screeching halt when you deal with matters of life and death. I’ve tried eight murder cases since then."
Lemmon sees the difference in the way women lawyers and judges are received in the legal community today compared to when she began her journey.
"The way has been paved for our daughters in this profession, but there are still hurdles,” she said.
"When young women who choose to be in the legal profession ask me for advice, I tell them, ‘The doors have been opened for you, but it takes hard work and determination.’
“‘You can’t rely just on your talent alone to make your way through the system.’"
Lemmon's strong family roots taught her that no obstacle is impossible to overcome when it comes to choosing a plan for your life.
She noted that working in the community to help others achieve their goals is something that judges and lawyers have an obligation to do.
"I can't emphasize enough how important it is for judges and lawyers to be advocates for the community," Lemmon said.
"The American Bar Association has an initiative that encourages the legal community to do their part and play an influential role in changing the public’s impression of the judicial system."
Lemmon talks to students in various grade levels at schools in St. Charles Parish, participates in make-believe trials with children, and discusses with them the role of the Constitution in the legal process.
"St. Charles Parish schools has a program that is civics based where I got an opportunity to participate with middle school children so they could see what goes on during a day in court," Lemmon said.
"With so many court television shows flooding the media, people have a false impression of what a judge really does and what a trial is like and it is important that there is a realistic impression of both."
Lemmon is the founder and president of the St. Charles Parish League of Women Voters, a member of the National Conference of State Trial Judges, Louisiana District Judges Association, and Louisiana Bar Foundation, founder of the Mental Health-Juvenile Services Coordinator Program and the 2007 recipient of the Louisiana Center for Women and Government Hall of Fame Award and countless other community service awards.
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