Monday, January 14, 2019


Judge Patricia Wald ’51 dies at 90

Patricia M. Wald ’51, one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation, died on January 12, 2019 at her home in Washington, D.C. The cause was pancreatic cancer. She was 90.

Patricia Wald '51 Wald was born in Torrington, CT on September 16, 1928. She graduated first in her class from Connecticut College (then Connecticut College for Women) in 1948. At Yale Law School, she was one of only 11 women in her class, and graduated in 1951. The year after graduation, in 1952, she married classmate Robert L. Wald ’51. He died in 2010.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Wald to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and she became the first woman appointed to the circuit. She also became the first woman to serve as its Chief Judge, from 1986–1991.

In 1999, after her retirement from the appellate court, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan named her one of 14 judges to serve on the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague. In 2001, she wrote the judgment in the case of former Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic, which found for the first time that the massacre of about 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica constituted genocide.

Wald spoke at the Law School in April 2013 during a panel discussion about pioneering women in the law hosted by Yale Law Women and the Law School’s chapter of the American Constitution Society. In August of that year, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She is survived by her five children and 10 grandchildren.

READ MORE ABOUT THE LIFE OF JUDGE PATRICIA M. WALD ’51:

The Washington Post:
Patricia Wald, pathbreaking federal judge who became chief of D.C. Circuit, dies at 90

The New York Times:
Patricia Wald, First Woman to Preside Over D.C. Appeals Court, Dies at 90