Betty Binns Fletcher

Betty Binns Fletcher
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 26, 1979  November 1, 1998
Nominated by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Richard Tallman
Personal details
Born (1923-03-29)March 29, 1923
Tacoma, Washington, U.S.
Died October 22, 2012(2012-10-22) (aged 89)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Alma mater Stanford University
University of Washington, Seattle

Betty Binns Fletcher (March 29, 1923 October 22, 2012) was an American lawyer and judge. She served as a federal judge on the San Francisco-based United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit between 1979 and 2012.

Fletcher was one of the first women to become a partner in a major American law firm and the second woman to be appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Tacoma, Washington to an attorney and his wife who were active New Deal Democrats, Elizabeth Binns wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. Her father sometimes allowed her to skip classes in order to watch him try cases; she graduated from the local public high school at age 16. She then attended Stanford University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1942 at the age of 19.[2]

Because so many men were away during World War II, Binns was admitted to the Stanford Law School, and completed one year before marrying Robert L. Fletcher, who was soon assigned to fly anti-aircraft blimps out of Lakehurst, New Jersey. They started a family, and moved back to Lakewood, Washington after the war. With her parents' assistance in caring for their four young children (and renting out their own house to live in Lakewood), Fletcher resumed her legal education after a decade, now commuting to Seattle, Washington to study at the University of Washington School of Law. In 1956 she graduated from the University of Washington at the top of her law school class.[3][4]

Private practice

Despite graduating at the top of her class, Fletcher had difficulty finding a job with any Seattle law firm.[5] Finally, Charles Horowitz of Preston Gates & Ellis (later K&L Gates) took a chance on her, and Fletcher eventually became a partner at the law firm and the first woman partner at any major Pacific Northwest law firm. Fletcher thus was in private practice in from 1956 to 1979, and earned a reputation for pragmatism. She was instrumental in expanding the firm's presence in Asia, and also inherited Horowitz's clients when he accepted a position on the Washington Supreme Court in 1975. Her clients included former United States Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas.

Fletcher was an active member of the Washington State Bar Association and from 1972-1973 served as the first female president of the King County Bar Association.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Fletcher was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on July 12, 1979, to a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, created by 92 Stat. 1629. She was confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1979, and received her commission the same day.

On the bench, Fletcher wrote opinions in areas such as employment discrimination, environmental law, Indian law, water rights, export restrictions on cryptography, obscenity on the internet, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Fletcher took senior status on November 1, 1998, after her son William A. Fletcher joined the Ninth Circuit bench. She died on October 22, 2012.[6]


External links

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Richard Tallman
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