By Elizabeth Palmer ’92
Judge Pat Broderick was attracted to Trinity’s academic reputation, small size and women’s college environment, and felt it would be a good place to explore her Catholic faith further. Broderick first came to D.C. on a Girl Scout trip, but soon returned for the majority of her education and career.
“It (Trinity) was tougher than I expected…the first question was ‘where are you going to grad school?’ but it taught me to think,” said Broderick, who credits Trinity with helping her step out of her shell and engage in college life.
She was a junior and sociology major at Trinity in 1970 when an accident left her permanently confined to a wheelchair. “Confined” is hardly the word to describe this avid world traveler, recreational skier, and steward of justice, however.
Broderick took classes at Hofstra University during her rehabilitation and oriented herself to her new mobility challenges. Trinity, meanwhile, prepared for her return. When she re-matriculated, Broderick had keys to doors with wheelchair access, still quite limited at Trinity at the time, and permission to park near St. Joseph’s Circle.
“People made a real effort to make things work for me when I came back,” said Broderick, “and I still appreciate that.”
She completed her Trinity degree and went on to obtain a Master’s in Rehabilitative Counseling at George Washington University. Working as a probation and parole officer gave Broderick a chance to use her skills to help others find new and more successful paths. It was not long, however, before Broderick concluded that the law was her calling.
She completed her JD at Catholic University in 1981, and clerked for the Honorable Henry F. Green, the same judge who would later swear her in at her investiture.
After finishing her clerkship, Broderick purchased what was then called a “round-the-world” airline ticket, on which she could travel continuously as long as she kept going on the same direction. She embarked solo on a trip that took her to such diverse geographies as Europe and Southeast Asia.
Her travel bug temporarily sated, Broderick worked as a prosecutor, which she took to immediately. “I loved trying cases,” she said. “I loved feeling like the good guy, making citizens feel secure.”
She then moved on to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she was part of federal anti-money laundering efforts. The job offered more opportunity for travel, particularly to South American and Caribbean countries.
The opportunity to transition from attorney to judge then arose five years ago, and Broderick embraced it.
Though the process was daunting and the job of a judge can be somewhat more isolating than that of a lawyer, Broderick said she loves her job.
“I was ready for the bench,” she explained. “I was ready to take in and listen, to resolve rather than advocate.”
Like most judges, Broderick adjudicates a hefty caseload. Asked to opine the greatest challenge to the justice system today, she says it is the lack of city resources. People referred to diversion and counseling programs can face daunting waits for placements to become available, limiting their ability to find jobs and housing in the interim. Many, as a result, find themselves recycling through the criminal justice system as they await court-ordered treatments.
Her advice to Trinity students thinking of a career in law? “Believe in yourself.”
“I know they say there are already too many lawyers in the world, but there is always room for one more good one. And there are so many areas of law; there is something to fit each person.”