Adorned in a black robe, Beverly Reid O’Connell sat in her office in the San Fernando courthouse Monday.
The judge had returned from a weekend that held a significant milestone for her and fellow Bruins: the UCLA football team’s victory over USC.
“It was the best,” said O’Connell, a UCLA alumna who attended the rivalry football game on Saturday. “We waited a long time for that game.”
O’Connell graduated from UCLA in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in political science before moving onto Pepperdine University, where she earned her law degree. On Nov. 14, President Barack Obama nominated her to fill the vacancy in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. If confirmed, O’Connell will be responsible for handling cases that fall under federal jurisdiction within the district, which stretches from the Pacific Coast to the borders of Nevada and Arizona.
She is one of 19 judges nominated by the President and will help fill the nearly 100 vacancies left on federal benches nationwide.
O’Connell has served as a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles since 2005, after working as an assistant U.S. attorney for 10 years.
For those who know her, her rise in the judicial world seemed inevitable. Linda Reid, O’Connell’s older sister who also graduated from UCLA and was her former college roommate, said she noticed O’Connell’s affinity for the law from a young age.
“I wanted to be an astronaut. … (O’Connell) always wanted to be an attorney and a Supreme Court justice,” Reid said.
O’Connell would watch hours of legal television shows such as Perry Mason when she was young, Reid said as she recalled their childhood.
“The way I know UCLA football players, she knew Supreme Court justices,” Reid said.
O’Connell’s time in Westwood was shorter than most students’ ““ she graduated in just three years.
As an undergraduate, she was a member of the sorority Sigma Kappa ““ which no longer exists at UCLA ““ where she represented the sorority in the Panhellenic Council.
“She’s always had that personality, of just being fair and impartial, and able to mediate,” said Jamie Adler Rodriguez, O’Connell’s best friend and sorority sister.
Though she graduated more than 25 years ago, O’Connell is still a dedicated Bruin.
She has season tickets to the football games, and plans to attend basketball games at the new Pauley Pavilion when she has time.
During her time at Pepperdine’s law school, O’Connell met her husband Dan, now a prosecutor who works in the city of Los Angeles.
Her colleague Charlaine Olmedo, also a UCLA alumna, saw O’Connell’s work ethic and knowledge of the nuances of the law as keys to her success. “She is set apart in her capabilities of handling the human drama that comes into the courtroom … she applies the law fairly, and does it in a way that is gracious to both sides,” Olmedo said. “Both sides leave the court with a sense of fundamental fairness, even if they do not necessarily win the argument.”
O’Connell’s nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The nomination isn’t secure, however, as Senate Republicans have worked in recent months to block the president’s nominations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While she said she could not comment on the nomination, O’Connell did express her gratitude.
“I’m honored that the President nominated me.”