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Janie Shores dies; 1st female member of Alabama Supreme Court was 85

Janie Shores, above in an undated photo, was

Janie Shores, above in an undated photo, was the first female member of the Alabama Supreme Court. Shores, who died on Aug. 9, 2017, was elected in 1974 and served until 1999. Credit: AP / Brynn Anderson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The first female member of the Alabama Supreme Court, Janie Shores, has died.

Shores, who also was once considered as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee, died Aug. 9 at her home in Baldwin County on the Alabama coast days after suffering a stroke, according to Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance, a godson. She was 85.

Shores worked as a legal secretary in Mobile before graduating from the University of Alabama law school, according to her official court biography. She practiced in Selma and worked on the legal staff of Liberty National Life Insurance Co. before entering politics.

Shores was first elected to the state Supreme Court in 1974 as a Democrat and served until her retirement in 1999. Then-President Bill Clinton considered Shores for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, but the seat went to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In an interview published several years ago by the blog of Litigation Counsel of America, a national honor society for trial attorneys, Shores recalled an upbringing that included being the daughter of teenage parents who didn’t make it past grade school. A friend encouraged her to study law, she said, and the experience of working as a secretary helped with her legal education.

“I had a real advantage when I finally got to law school. I did know how to take dictation and I took down every word the professors uttered, typed them up and studied them for the exams. I think I made good grades because I often answered the questions using the professor’s own words,” Shores told Litigation Commentary and Review.

Shores was the first female professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in suburban Birmingham. The Alabama Law Foundation awards a scholarship in Shores’ honor to female law students, and Litigation Counsel of America awards the Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award in her honor.

Vance, whose parents were close friends of Shores and her late husband, Jim Shores, said he didn’t realize Shores’ stature when he was young.

“I don’t guess I appreciated it at the time, although I did know that she was the first woman to be elected to the court. That registered with me even back then,” he said.

Shores spoke her mind, Vance said, but always with grace. “That is just a gift that some Southerners have,” he said.

Shores’ survivors include daughter Laura Shores, an attorney in Washington, D.C.

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