Harriet S. Shapiro, the first female attorney ever employed in the United States Attorney General’s office to present cases to the federal government on behalf of the federal government to the Supreme Court, died on February 1 in a facility hospice in Rockville, USA. She is 93 years old.
Alfred said the cause was heart failure.
Ms. Shapiro joined the attorney general’s office in 1972 and remained there for 29 years.
Perhaps what sets her apart more than being the office’s first female attorney is her preference for writing briefs rather than giving oral arguments before the Supreme Court. And it was her exquisitely written presentations that made her a popular figure in Washington legal circles.
“Harriet is an elegant succinct writer,” former Deputy Attorney General Kenneth S. Geller said in an email.
“Her shorts are for gymnastics,” he added. “There are no detours or distractions around. I’m sure the judges appreciated that. ”
For many lawyers, appearing before the nation’s highest court is a career highlight; those in the attorney general’s office do it often, and some seek to argue as many cases as possible.
Not Miss Shapiro.
“I never thought I was good at it,” she said in an oral history in 2012 Interview for the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
She didn’t like the performance aspect of the presentations and found the preparation too stressful. In the two weeks before the argument, she said, “there’s always a little cloud over your head when you’re thinking about the questions the court might ask, how you might present the Not too technical, but technical enough to get you the points you have to hit. “
After a decade in which she delivered only about 15 oral arguments – a rather low number for someone in her position – she turned her focus entirely on the written word. It is in the summary that evidence is aggregated and where, she believes, a case is won or lost.
As she said in 2012, “I write much better than I speak.”
Ms. Shapiro has written hundreds of abstracts, appeals to recommendations and petitions on a wide range of issues, including constitutional questions of equal protection, statutory questions related to labor law and environment as well as patent related questions.
“She doesn’t see herself as an advocate; She is a researcher,” her son said. “She loves the puzzle of it. She likes to solve problems. “
Harriet Morse Sturtevant was born on September 7, 1928, in New Bedford, Mass., and raised in Southern California. Her father, Alfred Henry Sturtevant, is a geneticist and professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology. Her mother, Phoebe (Reed) Sturtevant, is a homemaker and self-taught carpenter.
Harriet graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1950. She worked for two years as a Social Security claims tester in Santa Rosa, California, before when he returned east to attend Columbia Law School.
While women make up 10% of her 200-person class, she says in oral history that she has never felt discriminated against and does not consider herself a feminist. Professors sometimes make sexist comments, she said, but her attitude is, “That’s their problem, not mine.”
At the end of her sophomore year, she was appointed editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review, the second woman in the prestigious journal’s history to run it. Working alongside a predominantly male editorial board at the helm, she says, has taught her to assert herself. In 1954, she married a classmate, Howard Shapiro, one of her editors at the law review agency.
After both graduated in 1955, they moved to Washington, where they worked for the government, she was with the Atomic Energy Commission and he was with the Department of Justice.
In 1972, by which time Mr. Shapiro had become head of the appellate division of the department’s antitrust division, he learned that Attorney General Erwin N. Griswold was convinced that it was time to hire a woman. Miss Shapiro applied for the job and got it.
She officially retired from the Office of the Solicitor General in 1992 but continued to work there part-time until 2001.
In addition to her son Alfred, she is survived by another son, Charles; a granddaughter; and one brother, Alfred Henry Sturtevant III. Her husband passed away in 2019.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/us/harriet-shapiro-dead.html Harriet S. Shapiro, Scorer at Attorney General’s Office, Dies at 93