Audrey Collins

U.S. District Court Judge

Central District

Age: 52

Audrey Collins did not aspire to be a federal court judge, finding satisfaction in being a good lawyer and working diligently for many years in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

But her friends suggested that she apply, and in May 1994 Collins was confirmed to the post, a lifetime position. But she might not stop there.

"If she were nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court or to the California Supreme Court, I would not be surprised," said L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who worked with Collins for 15 years. "If I were asked by the president or the governor about such a nomination, I would be very supportive. She is a young judge and she is not only very bright and capable, but she works very hard."

Collins possesses the rare combination of determination and diplomacy, added Garcetti. "Once she focuses on what she believes is right, she doesn't let go," he said.

For example, back when Collins was responsible for hiring, firing and disciplining attorneys in the D.A.'s Office, she and Garcetti argued for months over whether a particular attorney deserved to be promoted.

"I made the promotion and lived to regret it," Garcetti said. " It turns out she was right and I was wrong, but she handled it in such a diplomatic and professional way that I was not offended."

Collins studied political science as an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1967. She went on to earn a master's degree in government in 1969 at American University and then earned her juris doctor at UCLA Law School in 1977, graduating in the top 10 percent of her class.

Collins joined the District Attorney's Office in January 1978 and served there in roles of increasing responsibility until becoming one of three assistant district attorneys. She was involved in a variety of legal areas, including juvenile, consumer and environmental protection, and crime prevention, among other things.

Besides the intrinsic satisfactions of her job, Collins said her position is significant because it allows her to serve as a role model for African American children and aspiring law students.

"There still aren't very many African American judges or judges of color," she said. "I think one thing I would like to do is figure out more vehicles to show, particularly children, that they are represented in court, that there are people on the bench who do look like them. (Becoming a judge) is a reasonable aspiration that they could achieve. This is a door that you can get in."

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