Alexandra Leichter on Rose Bird

“The minute she was appointed to the Supreme Court, the knives were out against her.”

Rose Bird was the first woman ever to serve on the California Supreme Court…and she was vilified for it. Bird attended Berkeley Law School where she was only one of eight women among two hundred men. When new Governor Jerry Brown appointed her as the Secretary of Agriculture, Bird became the first female cabinet member in California. During her term, Bird was a compassionate advocate for farmworkers; she heard their health and safety issues and chose to fight for them. And when a vacancy opened up on the Supreme Court, Jerry Brown appointed Bird the Chief Justice of California. She was opposed by Conservatives for her opposition to the death penalty, but refused to sacrifice her morals for public approval, even when it ultimately cost her the seat. As her friend Alexandra Leichter recalls, “She was true to who she was… and people didn’t like it. Too bad.”

Our storytellers share these astonishing women with us conversationally and unscripted; we fact-check afterwards and note any major discrepancies for accuracy.


Alexandra Leichter

Alexandra Leichter is a founding partner in the Beverly Hills family law firm of Leichter Leichter-Maroko LLP, in which she practices law with her son Ariel Leichter-Maroko and several other brilliant attorneys. Having received her J.D. from Loyola Law School of L.A., she has been in private practice since 1972. She is a California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist and is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. She is also an AAML Certified Family Law Arbitrator, and has taught and written extensively on family law Arbitration practice, child custody/visitation problems and solutions, and Islamic and Jewish divorce issues. Her private practice involves complex property division and characterization issues, major conflict child custody/visitation cases, high-income child support/spousal support, and domestic violence. She also volunteers as a Temporary Judge in numerous Los Angeles County family law courtrooms, and is a long- time member of the Board of Directors of Levitt Quinn, a nonprofit family law firm.

Featured Woman

Rose Bird

Rose E. Bird was born on November 2,1936 near Tucson, Arizona. In 1950, Bird, her mother and two siblings moved to New York City. Bird graduated from Long Island University, spent a year as a secretary and then decided to attend graduate school. While at the University of California, Berkeley, Bird studied political science which ignited her interest in California politics and inspired her to pursue a law degree. After graduation, she became the first female law clerk in the Supreme Court of Nevada and the first female deputy public defender in Santa Clarita County. Bird also taught at Stanford Law School from 1972-194. In 1974, when her friend Jerry Brown was elected Governor of California, he appointed her as the Secretary of Agriculture. Three years later, Brown appointed Bird as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Bird was often a lone dissenter as Chief Justice, specifically when overturning death penalty cases, which put her in opposition with Conservatives. And after a long, public highly partisan campaign to get Bird removed from the Supreme Court, she was ousted in the November 4, 1986 election. After several bouts with breast cancer, Bird died on December 4, 1999 at Stanford University Medical Center at the age of 63. The California Public Defender’s Associated and the California Women Lawyers established an award in her honor.