State Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, has been named the recipient of the Maine State Bar Association’s Caroline D. Glassman Award.
Mills has been a lawyer in private practice with her brother state Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, for 14 years. She recently was re-elected to a fourth term in the Legislature and is a candidate for attorney general.
The Glassman award will be presented to Mills in January at the bar association’s annual meeting in Portland. Named for the first woman to serve on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the award is given each year to a female member of the Maine bar who has demonstrated excellence in one or more of the following criteria:
— Has worked to remove barriers and to advance the position of women in the profession or in the community.
— Has worked to educate the bench, the bar, or the public on the status of women in the profession.
— Has acted as a role model for younger or less-experienced women lawyers.
“I feel very privileged to receive this prestigious award,” Mills said Wednesday. “It is one of the highest awards an attorney can receive in Maine, and I am honored to receive this commendation from my peers.”
Glassman, now 85, was appointed to the state supreme court by Gov. Joseph Brennan in 1983 to replace Justice Gene Carter when he was appointed to the federal bench. In addition to being the first woman on the high court, she is the only person who has ever followed a spouse on to the supreme court. Glassman’s husband, Harry P. Glassman, died at 53 in 1981, after serving on the court for two years.
She retired in 1997 and urged then-Gov. Angus King to appoint a woman to replace her. King appointed Leigh I. Saufley, now the chief justice, to replace Glassman.
Mills also was a female first in Maine’s legal community. She was the first woman to work in the criminal division of the Attorney General’s Office, where she prosecuted homicides, tax fraud and other major crimes statewide and wrote briefs, law enforcement manuals, and opinions on behalf of the attorney general for four years.
“Times have changed since I started practicing law,” she said in an e-mail. “Thirty years ago, I tried a homicide case in Portland. I was the only woman in the courtroom that whole week. The news article on the case was titled, ‘The Prosecutor Wore Pale Powder Blue.’
“Instead of discussing the evidence and the merits of the case,” she continued, “the article described my wardrobe in great detail. We laughed about that then and we laugh about it now. Times have changed.”
Mills was born and raised in Farmington and has spent much of her life in public service, according to the press release announcing the award. She graduated from Farmington High School, the University of Maine and University of Maine Law School.
In 1980 she was elected district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, and was the first woman district attorney in the northeastern United States. She served nearly 15 years as district attorney and was president of the Maine Prosecutors Association for four of those years.
“When I attended a national conference of 3,000 prosecutors in Canada,” she said, “I was the only female district attorney in attendance, my husband the only male spouse.
“There are still more glass ceilings to be cracked. Now that half the law school student body is women, I would like to encourage more women to go into trial work. The work is challenging but the rewards are large.
“I also don’t think we’ll ever really grapple with issues of domestic violence and sexual assault until there are many more women in law enforcement investigating these cases,” Mills continued. “I’m hoping I’ll see the day when we have as many women police officers, plumbers, electricians, veterinarians, surgeons and construction workers as men, the same way we’ve seen growth in the numbers of women in law and primary medicine and other good-paying jobs.”
In 1983, Mills married Stan Kuklinski, a widower with five daughters whom they brought up in western Maine. The lawyer and legislator has published poetry and enjoys fishing, reading and cooking.