MASTERS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9
sat in our offices and we kept our noses
clean and we did our jobs. We knew that
we were going to set the standard for the
women who came behind us.”
When she had a son, Ian, in 1988, she
took three months of maternity leave:
exactly what her firm offered. But once
back at work, she realized something
had changed. The day before she gave
birth, she was Lorie Masters, a solid and
“The day after you come back, it is
assumed that maybe you are someone who
can’t be counted on anymore,” she says.
“This doesn’t happen with guys. A guy has
a baby and he’s ... considered a pillar of the
community; he’s more reliable.”
But by the 1990s, she was the leading
attorney in a series of cases involving
Hoechst Celanese Corp., sued over the
plastic used in faulty plumbing fittings, in
pursuit of insurance claims.
“We argued that Celanese was being held
liable for progressive deterioration or injury
from exposure to chlorine that took place
over a period of years,” she says. “And if that
was the case … then each of those policy
years in play during that period of damage
should be called on to apply. It makes a huge
difference because if you’re limited to one
year, you only get one set of policy limits.”
She won. She was in her 40s at the time.
But away from work, the district’s lack of
voting representation in Congress troubled
Masters. “It’s the unfinished works of the
civil rights era,” she says.
It is unlikely that Congress is going
to give D.C. statehood any time soon,
she acknowledges. But until then, she
has served as board member for groups
working on voting-rights issues. She
wants to see pay equity for women and
public pay scales. And come to think of it,
she doesn’t like the word “equity.”
“Let’s call it what it is,” she says, “pay
equality. Why do we call it equity?”
The counter-argument is that the
problem isn’t that women are paid unfairly;
it’s that women don’t negotiate for
themselves. But Masters, who remembers
once being made to feel lucky to have a
job, is fast on the defense.
“Women are not negotiating for
themselves,” she says, “because they know
that if they are perceived as too aggressive,
that will come back to haunt them.”
Masters didn’t have anything to prove,
and she certainly didn’t need a new job;
but after years of law by day and civil rights
advocacy by night, a new opportunity
presented itself with D.C.’s attorney
general election in 2014.
The election had been a long time
coming. In 43 states, the attorney general
is elected; prior to 2014, in the district,
the mayor appointed the position and the
district council approved.
Voters decided in 2010 that they wanted
to elect an attorney general. But the
council and mayor differed on the new
attorney general’s scope of power and in
July 2013, the council voted to delay the
election until 2018.
That wasn’t the end of it. After a legal
challenge, a D.C. Court of Appeals panel
ruled in June 2014 that the election must
go forward. At that point, less than six
months remained until Election Day. That
made for a hurricane-like election cycle.
For Masters, it was even shorter. One
month after the court decision, in July
2014, she declared her candidacy. She
couldn’t resist. In her view, the race for
the first elected attorney general in D.C.
needed to include women’s voices.
“It is a big decision to leave your
practice. It’s not like I’d been in politics
before,” she says. “But I thought about all
the women who have made it possible for
people like me to do what I do—to be able
to apply for law school and to practice law,
and they didn’t shy away from a challenge.
It did strike me that in this history-making
election, one of them would have jumped
in. ... And I thought my candidacy was a
way that I could honor that legacy.”
Masters had to get her sea legs quickly,
remembers Kemry Hughes, her campaign
manager. On the plus side, he noticed right
off that she could connect with people.
“Her grasp of the community and its issues
truly impressed me,” he says.
She went into public housing and talked
to residents. She danced at a club. She
listened. She talked. She was forced out of
her comfort zone.
Five candidates entered the race; Karl
Racine, who had been managing partner
at a powerhouse law firm, emerged as a
frontrunner. Even so, audits took issue with
his firm’s billing under government contracts.
At a press conference, Masters challenged
Racine by pointing that out. It wasn’t
softball, either. She noted that Racine could
have put a stop to the problematic billing
the first time it happened. Later, he fired
back, saying that the charges against him
were a sign of desperation.
Racine won with 36 percent of the vote;
Masters finished third with 14 percent. She
was disappointed. It was a crowded field,
but sadly, in the district where Masters and
others worked so hard for voting rights, the
turnout was a dismal 38 percent. In fairness,
turnouts in midterms tend to be low. “If we
can work together to solve problems, the low
turnout and alienation that people expressed
will change,” Masters says.
Even so, she doesn’t have an interest in
tossing her hat into another race anytime
soon. The attorney general’s job was a
lawyer’s job, she points out.
Her father, a doctor, served on medical
boards long after retirement. The work
kept him young, she says. She remembers
how he told her that the great thing about
having a profession is that it offers so many
options. “I saw that with what he was able
to do with his life and his career and the
contributions he could make,” she says.
Masters’ mother also worked well into
retirement age. A registered dietician,
she quit to raise children, only to pick the
career up again. Eventually, she ran the
Women Infants and Children program in a
six-county area of Michigan.
“She always told me she refused to tell
people her age, because as soon as she
[did], they started to treat her differently,”
Masters says. “They would talk down to
her. She felt she wasn’t considered as
able as she was. So she just never talked
about her age.”
Masters is currently immersed in legal
projects—prominently, as an adviser for the
restatement of the law of liability insurance
by The American Law Institute. It’s time
consuming, but judges, academics and
other lawyers look to those restatements
when interpreting the law.
Recently, someone called her an
activist dismissively; Masters took it as a
badge of honor.
“I think that if you see an injustice, you
need to work to right it,” she says. “If that
makes you an activist, then so be it.”