Sandra Lea Lynch
|Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit|
June 16, 2008 - June 16, 2015
|Jeffrey R. Howard|
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit|
March 17, 1995
|Born||July 31, 1946|
Oak Park, Illinois
|Education||Wellesley College (A.B.)|
Boston University School of Law (J.D.)
Sandra Lea Lynch (born July 31, 1946) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She is the first woman to serve on that court. Lynch served as chief judge of the First Circuit from 2008 to 2015.
Lynch was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She received an B.A. degree from Wellesley College in 1968, and a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law in 1971. She was an editor of the Boston University Law Review.
From 1971 to 1973, Lynch served as a law clerk for Judge Raymond J. Pettine of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. At the time, a woman law clerk was so unusual that Lynch was profiled in an Boston Evening Globe article. She then went on to serve as an assistant state attorney general for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1973 to 1974 and general counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1974 to 1978.
Lynch was in private practice in Boston from 1978 until being appointed to the First Circuit. Lynch was a partner at the law firm of Foley, Hoag, & Eliot, and the first woman to lead the firm's litigation department. At Foley, Hoag, Lynch was part of the team that represented W.R. Grace in the connection with a groundwater contamination lawsuit later profiled in the work A Civil Action. Lynch was also involved in the Boston school desegregation litigation.
President Bill Clinton nominated Lynch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on September 19, 1994, but the United States Senate never voted on the nomination. Clinton renominated Lynch on January 11, 1995, to fill the seat vacated when Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States. The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates judicial nominees, unanimously rated Lynch as "well qualified" (the committee's highest rating). She was confirmed by the Senate on March 17, 1995, by voice vote, and received her commission on the same day. She served as chief judge from 2008 to 2015, and as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States over the same period.
In 1996, Lynch issued a noted dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc in a case in which an all-male First Circuit panel held that a rape committed at gunpoint by a carjacker did not constitute "serious bodily injury" for purposes of a federal sentencing enhancement. In a strongly worded dissent, Lynch wrote that Congress clearly intended "serious bodily injury" to include abduction and rape. Within several months, Congress clarified the statute to adopt Lynch's position; Senator Edward M. Kennedy publicly credited Lynch's dissent for prompting the change in the law.
In Natsios v. National Foreign Trade Council (1998), Lynch wrote an opinion striking down Massachusetts's "Burma law"—an act, enacted two years earlier, that barred state agencies from contracting with companies that do business in Burma (Myanmar), due to that nation's poor human rights record. Lynch found that the state law unconstitutionally intruded into the federal government's power to conduct foreign policy. In Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council (2000), a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed this ruling, agreeing that state statute was "invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the National Constitution owing to its threat of frustrating federal statutory objectives."
In 2006, Lynch found that trading a gun for drugs constitutes a "use" of a gun for purposes of a criminal law against using a firearm in relation to drug trafficking.
In Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services (2012), Lynch joined a unanimous panel in holding (in an opinion written by Judge Michael Boudin) that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment, because it denied to same-sex couples the federal benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.