Profiles: Lee Baxter

Lee Baxter

Lee Baxter

JD 74

Judge (retired), San Francisco Superior Court

Giving Back to the Next Generation

"Golden Gate Law School gave me a sense of belonging as well as the opportunity to go to law school when I'd been a housewife and a teacher for seven years."

Baxter took a rather roundabout route to her illustrious judicial career. While living on the East Coast with her husband in the 1960s, she taught junior high and high school for seven years. When her husband accepted a job in San Francisco in 1970, she seized the opportunity to go in a new direction: a career in law.

"My law degree opened up a whole new life for me. Without it, I couldn't have been a lawyer and I certainly couldn't have been a judge."

"One of my deep fears was that I was going to be the oldest person in the school," Baxter confesses. She found kindred spirits in many other parents launching second careers, and though the unfamiliar curriculum was challenging, Baxter sailed through. "I just loved it!" she says.

Baxter's law degree launched her into a general civil practice for seven years, then into a commissioner position in the San Francisco Superior Court. In 1987 -- when only 12 to 14 percent of judges were women -- she was appointed a judge on the San Francisco Municipal Court by Governor George Deukmejian. She was elevated to the San Francisco Superior Court in 1992 by Governor Pete Wilson, where she served until her retirement in 1999.

"My law degree opened up a whole new life for me," says Baxter. "Without it, I couldn't have been a lawyer and I certainly couldn't have been a judge. That's one reason I've always felt a great deal of loyalty to the school: Golden Gate offers students who might otherwise not be chosen to enter the field a chance to prove that they can do it. I think that's part of our mission, and that's what sets Golden Gate apart."

HONORS

The Honorable Lee D. Baxter Courtroom (2015)

A ceremonial courtroom on the Second Floor of GGU's 536 Mission Street building, that will hold Baxter's name in perpetuity.

Profile in Prominence (2011)

Baxter was the lead chapter in the annual book that highlights GGU's most prestigious alumni

GGU Magazine (2001)

Cover story: Judge Baxter's Appeal

Amicus Award (1997)

GGU's highest honor, in recognition of Baxter's achievements on -- and off -- the bench.

Judith McKelvey Award for Excellence (1991)

For Baxter's distinction in her field and her contributions to the Law School.

"The degree that I got from Golden Gate has provided me with a fabulous profession. I always felt like I wanted to give back to the school."

SERVICE & GIVING

  • Golden Gate University Trustee (1995 - 2004; 2007 - Present)
  • Law School Dean's Advisory Board (2005 - Present)
  • Judge Lee D. Baxter Trial Advocacy Fellowship (1995 - Present)
  • Alumni Association Board
  • Centennial Campaign Steering Committee
  • Law School Alumni Leadership Task Force
  • Law School President's Circle
  • Women Reunion Judge Volunteer

ACCOLADES

Peter Keane

Peter Keane

GGU Law Dean Emeritus

"If someone wanted to model their career after Lee Baxter's, they'd be setting a high standard."

Paula Rasmussen

Paula Rasmussen

JD '07

"I am so grateful that I was able to be a Baxter Fellow and I hope this program continues for a very long time."

Rachel Van Cleave

Rachel Van Cleave

GGU Law Dean

"Lee embodies the spirit of GGU. She shows how a legal education from GGU can bring great success."