At the outset, I should admit bias: Pam Rymer was a classmate of mine at Stanford Law School; she hired my son, Reed Gaither, JD/MBA ’96, as a summer law clerk during his days at Stanford Law School; and I nominated her for and served with her on the Stanford Board of Trustees. She was a very dear friend.
To understand Pam Rymer, you need merely to look at the photograph appearing with this article—her smile was contagious, her openness engaged all who were in her presence; she made everyone who worked with her feel like the most important person in the world. She loved people—almost as much as she loved Stanford. She was a great athlete—and an even greater supporter of Stanford Athletics. She was a wonderful Stanford trustee—engaged and collegial; she was always thoughtful, bringing exceptionally good judgment to the most pressing issues facing the board; and she was a great leader of every project and committee she was asked to head.
Others, particularly my litigating colleagues, can speak more competently about her service on the federal judiciary. But one of her most notable opinions in Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists demonstrates much about the thoughtful moderation that she brought to every task. In that case, she broke from her more conservative brethren and wrote the opinion for a deeply divided 6-5 court, which upheld a jury verdict and judge’s injunction against an anti-abortion group that displayed “Wanted”-style posters of abortion providers and maintained a website listing abortion doctors indicating whether they were still practicing, injured, or dead.
Judge Rymer was a tremendous mentor and lifelong friend of her clerks—as she was with so many Stanford Law students. “She took every opportunity to contribute to our education. As a Ninth Circuit appellate judge, she took on a lower district court case to expose us to the importance of the prosecution, the defense, and the judicial chair at trial; in our eyes, she was motivating us to make the most of our future contributions to the practice of law,” remembers Reed Gaither, a summer clerk to Judge Rymer in 1993.
Her affection for and dedication to Stanford Law School were extraordinary. She gave of her time, her wisdom, her advice, and her wonderful good humor to deans, faculty, and students for more than 30 years. She chaired the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors, served on the Dean’s Strategic Council, sat as a moot court judge and law school panelist, and worked tirelessly for the school and for our class. During the law school’s last capital campaign, she came to me apologizing for the fact that she couldn’t match the giving record of some of our wealthier alums. She then spoke of her total devotion to the law school: “I will do whatever I can now and shall leave to the school whatever I am able to accumulate during my life, even my furniture.”
Pam, we will always remember you just as you appear in this picture [above]. As her colleague Ninth Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said, “[We] will remember her for her clever wit, playful sense of humor, love of sports and all things Stanford, [and as] a brilliant jurist, a loyal friend.” And as great a friend as Stanford has ever had. SL