Judge Hitchens retires

by on January 23, 2011  •  In Uncategorized

From the SF Chronicle:

After 20 years on the San Francisco Superior Court bench, the nation's first openly lesbian elected judge says it's time to cut back on work, visit the kids and go fishing. "It's a perfect time for me. I can work six or seven days a month and pursue other loves and interests," Donna Hitchens said Friday.

Despite retiring in November, the 63-year-old Hitchens still works part-time as a visiting judge on the court she headed as presiding judge in 2003-04. There is still a full-time judge in the household – Nancy Davis, Hitchens' longtime partner and her wife since 2008.

The couple met in the late 1970s as attorneys for the feminist law firm Equal Rights Advocates. While there, Hitchens helped to start the Lesbian Rights Project, representing lesbians in disputes over custody, adoption and employment. The project took on independent status in 1988 as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a nonprofit with a nationwide clientele…

Hitchens was elected to the court in 1990, narrowly defeating Judge Jerome Benson. A few lesbians elsewhere had been appointed as judges, she said, but she was the first ever chosen by the voters.

Much of her time has been devoted to family law cases – a familiar subject from the lengthy proceedings she and Davis went through to adopt the older of their two daughters.

Hitchens transformed the city's family courts, establishing a new division in 1997 to oversee all cases on marriage and divorce, adoption, domestic violence and juvenile delinquency. She said the system allowed the court to consolidate each family's cases and improve information-sharing, so that a judge assigning child custody would know whether one of the parents was under a restraining order because of domestic violence.

Hitchens later formed what she described as "collaborative courts" to deal with mentally ill children and the victims and perpetrators of family violence, and a "zero-to-3" court for abused and neglected infants and toddlers…


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