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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015

Special Interest Ivy Grimes, Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP On Retiring Jefferson County Circuit Judge Caryl P. Privett I’ve done,” Judge Privett says. “I’m not married, and I don’t have Judge Caryl Privett was busy packing up her chambers when I dropped by to talk with her on her last day in office. Her chambers were full of art, tchotchkes, presents, and more than one picture of a hedgehog. “We spend more time in our offices then we do at home,” she said, “so I always like to make mine homey.” This was the first of many pieces of wisdom she shared that day. On Women and the Law: When Judge Privett graduated from law school at NYU in 1973, female lawyers were rare. She recalls that then there were so few of them, you knew them all, and that she was one of three local female lawyers who met for lunch every week and called themselves “The Women Litigators.” “Now,” she says proudly, “you can’t know every female lawyer or every African-American lawyer in the state.” Judge Privett stands as living proof that, though there are still barriers in the profession, the changes since the 70s provide ample hope that those barriers will continue to dissolve. “I was lucky I was naïve,” she says. “It never occurred to me I wouldn’t be able to do something I was qualified to do.” On a Lawyerly Wardrobe: Anyone who’s been in Judge Privett’s courtroom has noticed her unique and colorful clothes and color-coordinating pair of bright glasses. “I’ve made statements with my clothes,” she admits, “but I didn’t do that until I’d established myself. As a young lawyer, it’s important you remember you’re representing your client – that it’s not about you, but the client. When I was a young lawyer, I wore conservative suits in dark colors. And now I’m wearing pants! I never thought I’d see that day.” On Family: “You have to have a strong support system to do what children, but my parents and sisters supported me in everything. My parents didn’t agree with everything I did, but God help anyone who criticized me! My mother was my best campaigner.” She is also close to her two sisters, one of whom is an occupational therapist, and the other is a bookkeeper with two sons. “I’m so proud of both of my nephews,” she says. “One is married to a really strong, independent woman, and the other has only ever dated strong and independent women. And one of my nephews just passed the California bar on his first try.” Oann dP Fersinedvienragn Hcee r Calling: At a time when the law was almost solely the profession of white men, Judge Privett left law school to work for an African-American civil rights firm in 1973. While she says people who were close to her didn’t always understand her career trajectory or what she was trying to accomplish, she felt strongly about what she needed to do, so there was no other option. After many years in practice, she felt called to be a judge and began taking steps towards the position about 19 years before succeeding. As this dream was delayed, she enjoyed a career as a U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. “I wouldn’t have had that incredible career if I had gotten what I wanted right away,” she said. On Role Models: The characters we’re exposed to as kids can have a big impact on the adults we try to become (which should scare the generation of kids who grew up on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that’s a subject for a different article). When I asked Judge Privett about her childhood heroes, she controversially admitted to having hated Nancy Drew. “I thought Nancy Drew was silly. I was into books about a mystery-solving nurse named Cherry Ames. While she didn’t 24 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015
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