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Get to Know a Judge: Sharon Prost, Chief Judge, Famous Working Mom

Sharon Prost joined the Federal Circuit in 2001 and began service as Chief Judge when Judge Randall Rader stepped down as Chief in 2014. Some of Prost's most important opinions involve smart phone patent infringement litigation, including her dissent in Apple v. Motorola.

Prost also is one of the few circuit court judges who is more famous as a litigant than judge. After working for years in the federal government and putting herself through school at nights, an early '90s custody battle made her famous as a working mother being penalized for trying to balance home life and career.

Famous Working Mom

Prost's work ethic, which helped her earn three advanced degrees while working full time, was used against her during a high profile divorce in the 1990s. Prost's ensuing custody battle in D.C. Court of Appeals, continues to be taught in law schools.

That case, Prost v. Greene, made headlines when a judge determined that Prost was too focused on her career to take care of her children. Prost, who was working as an aide for Sen. Orrin Hatch prior to her divorce and custody battle, saw her busy work schedule used against her, raising claims of an unfair double standard, that working mothers were being punished for pursuing both careers and parenting. During her custody battle, her cause was frequently embraced by senators, many of whom helped raise money for her legal costs. During her confirmation hearings, several senators, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, made a point of praising her relationship with her sons, as well as her qualifications for the bench.

Long History of Government Service

Before joining the Federal Circuit, Prost had a long history of working in the government. She spent 15 years in the executive branch as an employee with the IRS and GAO, as Acting Solicitor for the NLRB and as chief labor counsel for the Human Resources Committee. From 1993 to 2001, Prost worked as Minority Chief Counsel, Deputy Chief Counsel and Chief Counsel to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

A Strong Belief in Education

Prost's parents never attended high school. She has certainly made up for their lack of formal education however, having obtained a B.S. from Cornell University, M.B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from American University's Washington College of Law, and an L.L.M. in tax from George Washington School of Law. The last three degrees were obtained at night, while she worked in government during the day.

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