Justice Judith McConnell's legal and judicial career in San Diego began in 1969 after graduating from the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. She was one of the twenty four women lawyers in San Diego County in 1970. At this time, San Diego was open to possibility as it was the focus in ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Recognizing this possibility, in 1972 Justice McConnell, through her strength and dedication to women and her profession, became the first president and co-founder, along with the Honorable Lynn Schenk, of the new Bar Association Lawyers Club of San Diego. The Association strives to address issues of gender discrimination in the profession, in the law, and in the community.
Justice McConnell continued to rise to the challenges facing women lawyers and judges. In private practice she served as trial Attorney with CalTrans. In 1978 Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the San Diego Municipal Court. In 1980 she was elected as the first woman to preside over the Superior Court. In August 2001, Governor Gray Davis appointed her to the Fourth District Court of Appeal for the State of California. She was twice elected Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court and Supervising Judge of the Family, Appellate, and Civil Law and Motion Departments. She has been a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Jury System Improvement, the Commission on the Future of the Courts, and the Advisory Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts.
Justice McConnell has worked to improve the court system through easier public access and case management. She is a teacher, mentor, and staunch vocal advocate for equality and the advancement of women in the law.