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JANUARY 2013 NEWSLETTER - Jackie Lacey
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Jackie Lacey Breaks a Glass Ceiling in the District Attorney's Office

 by Jessica Kronstadt

Jackie Robinson – who knew a thing or two about breaking glass ceilings – said “a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”  Jackie Lacey has had a tremendous impact on the lives of many.  On December 3, 2012, Jackie Lacey took the oath of office as Los Angeles County’s first female and first African-American district attorney since the office was created on February 27, 1850, exactly 107 years before she was born.  Jackie is the daughter of Addie Phillips and the late Louis Phillips.  They moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s to escape racism in the South.  Throughout her swearing in, Jackie expressed how grateful she was to be able to break the glass ceiling that had covered the DA’s Office for 162 years.

Jackie’s swearing-in was, as she said in her inauguration speech, “awesome.”  It was not just historic, though as evidenced by those who participated and those who attended, it certainly was.  United States Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr. – the first African-American United States Attorney in Los Angeles – served as the master of ceremonies.  Four former L.A. County District Attorneys – John Van de Kamp, Robert Philibosian, Gil Garcetti and Steve Cooley – presented Jackie with the district attorney badge.  Lee Smalley Edmon, the first female Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, delivered the commendation.  And most importantly, several members of Jackie’s family, including her husband, children, nine year old niece, who sang with the Inner City Youth Orchestra during the ceremony, and her mother, were there to support and honor her.

Jackie’s swearing-in was also inspirational.  The remarks given about her made clear that she is loved, respected, and that the DA’s office is being left, as Steve Cooley put it, “in good hands and in very, very good shape.”  Andre Birotte said of Jackie, “She brings a level of honesty and commitment that has inspired me.”   John Van de Kamp told her, "Be your own person. You have experience; you won the office on merit; you broke the glass ceiling."  Judge Edmon summed things up when she said that Jackie is a "a reminder that we can't set our sights too high for what women can do in this profession . . . [her] election sends a powerful message to everyone in the D.A.’s Office - in fact to everyone in our profession - that with a lot of hard work, anyone can be a success in this profession, regardless of his or her race or gender.”

Finally, it was Jackie’s turn to speak.  She had already done so on her own, but her inauguration speech – wherein she paid tribute to her family, colleagues and the people of Los Angeles county for helping her make history – demonstrated that she will be an outstanding District Attorney. 

She noted that she comes from a family of women who, “notwithstanding the racism they encountered in the south, accomplished things.”  She then honored her parents.  Theirs, as she put it, was a story of “determination, faith and of true strength, strength I draw on when I run out of steam.”  In particular, she thanked her late father for being her first “leadership coach.”  She next honored her maternal grandmother, who had “kind eyes and a humble spirit” and the “strength to raise 14 kids.”  Jackie took the oath of office using her grandmother’s bible, which her grandmother used to keep track of the names and birthdates of Jackie’s mother and her 13 siblings and of historic events such as the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  As Jackie put it, her grandmother knew that “leadership in an elected position is an important part of everyone’s life,” and being a leader with “good character and sound values” is as important to her as it was to her grandmother. 

Then, after paying tribute to her four predecessors and in particular, Steve Cooley for being her mentor and biggest supporter outside of her family, Jackie crystallized for all in attendance that she is and will be the type of leader of her which her grandmother and father would be, and residents of Los Angeles County should be proud: 

“I am so determined to do the right thing by those who put me in office – the people of Los Angeles County . . . . I will draw on the same strength, faith and determination that my parents used as they sought a new life in Los Angeles.  I want to be the type of leader that others will want to follow.  I am committed to making the best decisions possible, putting the best people in place to carry on our mission and never ever forgetting that I work for you.”

As she concluded her speech, Jackie said to cheers from the crowd, "Today, the voters of this county allowed us to witness that it is possible for a girl from a working-class neighborhood like the Crenshaw District, who was educated in a public school like Dorsey High School, and worked her way up from the bottom can become the district attorney of the largest prosecutorial office in the nation.  How cool is that?” 

It is more than cool.  It is awesome.

Jessica Kronstadt is co-chair of WLALA’s Financial Development Committee and is a Holocaust Services Attorney with Bet Tzedek Legal Services.  




Photos courtesy of Haydee Capdet (Fotos by Haydee).

To view all the photos from Jackie Lacey's swearing in ceremony, please CLICK HERE.