Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society
Sarah Herring Sorin, the first woman lawyer in Arizona, also became the first female lawyer from Arizona admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court in April of 1906. In addition, she was the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the highest court without an accompanying male lawyer in 1913. She won the case.
In her first appearance before the Supreme Court, Sarah Sorin was representing the Phelps Dodge Corporation. One newspaper wrote: “The case was that of James H. Work against the United Globe Mining Company, a contest for the possession of the Big Johnny mine. As a result of Mrs. Sorin’s victory before the highest court of America, the Phelps-Dodge interests, owners of the United Globe, have undisputed possession of the Big Johnny and it is expected that they will proceed without delay to develop the mine, which gives rich promise.”
In making her appearance in Washington, Sarah Sorin was following in her father’s footsteps; in fact, it was under his tutelage that she first studied law. But by the time she stood before the Supreme Court, it was clear to everybody in the Arizona Territory that Sarah Sorin was standing beside – not behind – her father. The father and daughter were partners in a Tombstone law firm called Herring & Sorin.
Sarah Sorin practiced law throughout the Arizona Territory, developing a specialty in mining law and arguing many of the state’s important mining cases. In her practice, she represented a variety of clients before local, state and federal courts. During the time that she practiced, only men were allowed to serve on juries.
The Tombstone Epitaph described Sarah Sorin’s talents: “Mrs. Sorin is at perfect ease in a courtroom and commands the respect of both judge and jury and wins the admiration of the bar for the graceful manner in which she handles her case,” the newspaper wrote. “She is never at a loss for authorities, being so thoroughly prepared as to have references at her fingers’ end, and no matter how complicated the issue, she possesses that happy facility of elucidation that most generally wins for her client a favorable verdict …”
Sarah Herring was born in New York City on January 15, 1861. She was educated in New York and in 1881 moved with her family to Arizona. Like many women of her time, she began her career by teaching – becoming the first woman teacher in Tombstone. Later, she studied law under her father and returned to New York City to attend law school. In 1892, Sarah Herring was admitted to practice law in Arizona.
In 1898, she married Thomas Sorin, a rancher and minerologist. As a married woman, she struggled to balance her home life with an active career. Colonel Herring and Sarah Sorin eventually moved their law practice to Tucson. Later, when her father died, Mrs. Sorin moved to Globe where she became the attorney for the Old Dominion Copper Co.
Unfortunately, Sarah became ill with influenza and died in 1914 at the age of 53. Her work inspired Lorna Lockwood who became the first female Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1965.