ROSE B. SPECTOR was born on July 9, 1933 in San Antonio and graduated from Jefferson High School. Spector attended Barnard College at Columbia University where she received a B.A. in 1954. She graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1965 magna cum laude. After law school, she practiced law for ten years and in 1969 became a judge on the Municipal Court of the City of Olmos Park, Texas. This experience on the Municipal Court inspired her to seek election to the Bexar County Court of Law, where she served from 1975 until 1980. Judge Spector served for twelve years as a judge in the 131st Judicial District Court from 1981 until 1992. Following this, she served on the Texas Supreme Court from 1993 until 1998. After leaving the court, Justice Spector taught at the University of Texas School of Law as an adjunct professor.

One of Judge Spector’s most significant legal decisions was a family law case. In the lower court, a wife was awarded a divorce on claims of emotional distress, despite her failure to specify whether her claims were based on the intentional or negligent acts of the husband. In her dissent of Justice John Cornyn’s majority opinion in the 1993 Texas Supreme Court case Twyman v. Twyman, Spector argued that the lower court’s award of damages to the wife for the proven abuse by her husband should be upheld under the standards for negligent infliction of emotional distress that had been thought to apply at the time of the lower court’s verdict. Her dissent advocated for a women’s right to seek damages for abuse regardless of whether she proved intent.

Justice Spector was the first woman elected to the Supreme Court of Texas. She has been recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law and is a recipient of the Rosewood Gavel Award. In 2004, Justice Spector was awarded the inaugural Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Excellence by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics.

By John Cadena, St. Mary’s University Law Fellows in Public History (2018).

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