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Mary Stanley, first female US magistrate judge, retiring

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first woman to serve as a U.S. magistrate judge in West Virginia is looking forward to retirement.Friday was Mary Stanley's last day of work.She told The State Journal ( her 40-year career in the legal field has been fulfilling.Stanley became the first female appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney in the state. After 15 years, she reached another milestone when she was appointed a U.S. magistrate judge in 1992."Being first is largely a function of showing up at the right time when other people are ready to consider you," Stanley said. "So, I was kind of on that first wave of women coming out of law school."Stanley plans to leave for a three-week trip to Spain next month. She also plans to spend time visiting her two granddaughters, along with gardening and riding a new bicycle.A native of Vienna, Va., Stanley knew she wanted to be a lawyer starting in high school."There were some good TV programs that featured lawyers that I liked and there were lawyers in our neighborhood that I knew well," she said, adding her grandfather also was a lawyer.
A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Stanley looked for a job in West Virginia after getting married. She worked for Columbia Gas Transmission, then as a part-time law clerk for a federal judge.She was hired as a federal prosecutor at a time when the Department of Justice encouraged U.S. attorneys to hire more women and minorities. For a while, Stanley even job shared with another new mother."I did that for 15 years and I loved it. It was a great job," she said.There weren't too many women in the courthouse at the time, she said."Everybody was as man - the court reporter, deputy clerk, all the marshals, all the probation officers - everyone was a man," Stanley said. "I would often be the only woman in the whole room during a hearing. So, you can't help but feel like you stick out."Being the first female in her position, she said she set a higher standard for herself "because I felt like I had to demonstrate that women were as good or better than men. So, I've always tried to be the best. I felt like if I didn't do well that it would be more difficult for other women coming behind me."Becoming a U.S. magistrate judge was less stressful and came at the right time in her life.
"When you're a young lawyer, you want to learn how to try cases and present matters to a jury, so that was great," she said. "But I also really got worn out and kind of burned out so that when I was in my mid-40s, it was a great time to go on the bench because I still got courtroom work but all I had to worry about was making decisions, and I can make decisions. I don't agonize over them for too long."
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