No one until now has made the jump from the federal public defender's office to the federal bench in Sacramento.
Those who know and have worked with Allison Claire describe her as "super smart," a hard worker and compassionate, and they harbor no doubt it will be an effortless transition for her.
Claire was officially sworn in Friday as Sacramento's seventh U.S. magistrate judge at an installation in the federal courthouse's ceremonial courtroom.
Afterward, her wife and their teenage triplets two daughters and a son slipped the black robe on her.
"Cool robe. Fits very nice," she told a crowd of about 250 family members, friends and members of the legal community.
To get her on the job at the heavily burdened court, Claire was sworn in without ceremony Nov. 19.
She said during her remarks that, even after three months, she sometimes finds it hard to believe that she is doing what magistrate judges do presiding at arraignments and bail hearings, issuing warrants, refereeing disputes over the pre-trial exchange of information in civil matters, and a vast array of other duties. "It is still remarkable to me," she said.
Claire, 52, is the first member of the federal judiciary in the nation, at any level, to be in a state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. She and her wife were married during the 4 1/2-month window June 16 to Nov. 5, 2008 between the California Supreme Court's validation of same-sex marriage and the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution outlawing it.
"This is a milestone in my own life and the life of the court," Claire noted, and expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome she has received from her fellow judges and the court's staff.
She was chosen, like all magistrates in the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California, by its district judges, of whom there were nine when she was selected.
The most senior judge in the district, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, mentored Claire during her two years as a law clerk in his chambers and was the first speaker at Friday's event.
"It's very hard not to cry," Karlton said. "I can't tell you the pride I have today."
He regained his composure and reminded the audience that Claire "comes from years of practice in a place (the federal defender's office) that is not a traditional source of judges in this district. I want to commend my colleagues," Karlton said. "This is a mark of the integrity of this court."
One of those in attendance Friday most thrilled by the moment was Mary-Beth Moylan, whose stint as a Karlton law clerk overlapped Claire's by a year. As she talked about her former colleague after the ceremony, Moylan's eyes sparkled.
"She is one of the most brilliant, thoughtful people I've ever known," said Moylan, a professor at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law. "She will be the kind of judge that is truly fair and that lawyers will want to be in front of."