1975 MCBA President: Ann Diamond
May 01, 2015
By Peggy Bennington & Madeleine Simborg
Our friend and partner Ann Diamond became the 28th president of the Marin County Bar Association in 1975. She was also the first woman president of the Marin County Bar. Ann was born in 1912 in Pecs, Hungary, and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1929, in time for the great depression and avoiding the Holocaust which decimated Hungary’s Jewish population. She quickly learned English, which she spoke with a Hungarian accent she never lost. At a time when women did not go to law school, Ann graduated from Case Western Reserve law school in Cleveland, Ohio with honors in 1937. When she graduated, she could not find a job with a law firm so she went to work in Washington at the Office of Price Administration. While working there she supervised a young lawyer who became infamous, Richard Nixon. Working with Nixon, Ann learned how to be “one of the guys.” She became involved in a regular poker game that was all men, including Nixon. She always said he was not only a lousy poker player, but also untrustworthy.
She came to California to work as a lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board and was admitted to the California Bar in 1945. An innovator and leader in family law practice, she founded one of the first all women law firms in the United States. Ann became President of the Bar after her then law partner, retired Judge Bev Savitt, accepted the nomination on her behalf. Ann was out of the country, and, without consulting her, Judge Savitt agreed that it would be wonderful for Ann to head up our Bar Association. Little did the Bar know, that it was not only electing its first woman president, but also, the first “card carrying Communist” (and probably the last). She famously avoided a subpoena to testify at the McCarthy hearings by managing to be pregnant each and every one of the five years that she was served with a notice to appear. (At that time, pregnancy was a valid excuse to avoid a subpoena.)
In deference to Ann, the Bar meetings were moved from the Elks Club, which did not admit women members during her tenure as President. As a family lawyer, she promoted and supported the “no fault” divorce provisions of 1970, and she developed the model for statewide child support guidelines. She also pioneered the development and use of mental health training as an essential tool for family lawyers. She was instrumental in elevating family law to its current status as an important area of legal specialization in California.
She held monthly salons in her palatial Ross home and recklessly drove her beautiful silver Jaguar, to the general concern of everyone in her path. She was a friend and mentor of countless family lawyers and judges including the previously aforementioned Judge Savitt, her law partner, Judge Verna Adams, Cecilia Lannon, and Sharon Mah. Ann made unique and invaluable contributions to the Marin County Bar Association and to the practice of family law throughout California. She died in 2007 at age 94 and is sorely missed.
If we could channel Ann, these are some of the things we think she might have said during her inaugural speech:
- Many of our clients could benefit from seeing a therapist. Refer them to a therapist because you are not one. It will make your work as a lawyer easier.
- Don’t sleep with your clients or opposing counsel.
- We have an obligation to represent poor people and crazy people, but not necessarily at the same time.
- Parties and counsel should always meet face to face in the same room to attempt to settle. It will happen more often than not.
- History has proved I was right about Richard Nixon.