Judge Marjorie Rendell

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District Court Judge Marjorie (“Midge”) Osterlund Rendell, CW’69, could soon be trading jury trials for appellate decisions. President Clinton in January nominated her to a vacant judgeship on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

“Having served on the trial court for three years, this move to the Circuit Court of Appeals represents an exciting and challenging opportunity,” says Rendell, who also serves on the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women. “While on the trial court, I conducted jury trials and decided motions. The work on the appellate court involves the review of the district court’s decisionmaking and the writing of opinions with broader applicability.”

The judicial selection process is moving slowly, and no date for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee has been set yet for Rendell. She doesn’t foresee any major obstacles to her confirmation, however. Regardless of what happens, Rendell has plenty of responsibilities to keep her busy as a district court judge, the mother of a teenage son, and the spouse of Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell, C’65. “I don’t think I’m very different from many women today who are, in fact, handling lots of different roles at the same time, Rendell says. “It’s just a matter of balance. When [my son] Jesse has something special, whether it’s a doctor’s office [appointment] or a lacrosse game, and Ed has something special [that] maybe he wants me to attend with him in the evening, and I have a trial going on … it just means I have to move quickly from one stage to the next and never be far from the telephone.”

At Penn she majored in French, but these days the Latin of legal briefs is the language she’s more fluent in. “I wanted to be a teacher,” Rendell said. “but I student-taught French at the time of the Vietnam War, and relevance had to be the hallmark of teaching. There was no way I could make French relevant to the students, so I realized it was not going to be a successful venture on my part.” Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to go to law school instead, earning her degree at the University of Villanova.

Although an appointment to the Circuit Court would put her in the talent pool from which U.S. Supreme Court nominees are often picked, Rendell said that’s not a post to which she would actively aspire. “I would hope you get there by virtue of what you do day by day rather than by plotting a course. I have been very content and still am to do what I do now. The Circuit Court is still a privilege and honor and something I’ve looked forward to, but not something I’ve plotted out as a strategy as such.”

By Susan Lonkevich

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