First female clerk to a federal appeals judge dies at 94
Judge Jerome Frank (from left), Kim Ebb, Judge Augustus Hand and Larry Ebb at the Ebbs’ wedding reception.
Carmel “Kim” Prashker Ebb, a lawyer who lived “a life of legal firsts,” died Feb. 10 at age 94.
Ebb wrote about her experiences in a story for ABAJournal.com. She graduated first in her Columbia Law School class in 1945 at age 21 after completing college and law school in five years. She went on to become the first female clerk for a federal appeals judge.
Ebb secured the clerkship with Judge Jerome Frank of the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after contacting him about an article he wrote asserting that women should have the same workplace opportunities as men. Frank hired Ebb, who met her husband, another 2nd Circuit clerk, while on the job.
She married Lawrence Ebb seven months after their first meeting, and they remained together until his death in 2000.
After her clerkship, Ebb sought a job at private law firms, but was unable to land a position. At the time, Ebb wrote for ABAJournal.com, “the prospects for a female law graduate were pretty dismal. You might be hired to draw up wills in a law firm’s back room, where no client would discover that a woman had done the work, or toil anonymously for some legislative commission, drafting revisions of dusty statutes.”
Ebb had also sought a clerkship on the U.S. Supreme Court. She had a promising interview with one of the justices, according to an obituary written by Ebb’s son, Peter, a partner at Ropes & Gray. She was turned down, however, when the justice said his wife would never let him work in such close proximity to a woman.
Ebb found a job as a lawyer with the Atomic Energy Commission. She went on to work as a lawyer at several government agencies and as a labor lawyer at two law firms. During part of her career, she worked part time in a series of legal positions while raising three children.
Peter Ebb said his mother “remained a formidable pingpong player into her 80s” and “grudgingly gave up kayaking with her grandchildren at what she considered to be the premature age of 91.”