Judge Rosemarie Aquilina tells SEEN about being ‘a working woman in a man’s world’ and shares her advice for other women: ‘Demand change that benefits everyone equally regardless of gender, race, age or disability.’
By Stephanie Steinberg
Photography by Boswell Hardwick
Name: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina
City: East Lansing
Job Title: 30th Circuit Court Judge of Ingham County General Trial Division, author, professor at Michigan State University College of Law and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina was elected to the 30th Circuit Court for Ingham County in November 2008. She received national recognition during the Larry Nassar trial when she allowed 150-plus sexual assault survivors to speak. Previously, she served as a 55th District Court Judge for four years in her capacity as Chief Judge as well as the Sobriety Court Judge. During this time, Aquilina founded and established the Ingham County Sobriety Court Foundation to assist those in recovery.
Aquilina retired honorably from the Michigan Army National Guard after 20 years of service. She became part of Michigan’s history by becoming the first female JAG Officer in the Michigan Army National Guard when she enlisted. Prior to her election, Aquilina founded Aquilina Law Firm, PLC, during which time she became the radio talk show host of “Ask the Family Lawyer.” Aquilina is a published author. Her fictional novel, “Triple Cross Killer,” the first in a detective series, was published by Fiery Seas Publishing in December 2017. She is the mother of five children and grandmother of two.
1. What are you currently working on?
Writing novels and spending quality time with my children and family every day.
2. What is your greatest accomplishment?
Caring for my family, while having a bountiful career that has allowed me the honor of serving many individuals as well as my community.
3. What is an obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
Being a working woman in a man’s world in almost every job I have earned. I educated myself well for every situation, and used common sense and reason. I was persistent in each endeavor and did not let “no” and any naysayer dissuade me. Instead I used those negatives to empower me to change the answer to “yes” and achieved my goal(s).
4. What motivates you each day?
Making a positive difference in the community one person at a time, so that the world I leave behind is better for all of our children and grandchildren.
5. What’s the biggest issue facing women today?
Women are still treated as property and as second-class citizens who are not worthy of being paid equally, having an equal voice, or equal pay, even when we have more responsibilities than our male counterparts or co-workers. Because these issues persist, workplace bullying persists against women, which must stop, as it is meant to silence us.
6. How can we address or resolve that issue?
Become informed on any issue you address. Ask questions. Demand answers. Use your voice wisely — you do not need to raise it — you need to ensure you are being heard by making others aware. Remember one person at a time you can build an army to support change. Working together as a united voice for meaningful change works even if it means taking small steps that lead to giant progress. It is important to speak up not just for ourselves, but in a meaningful way that results in change all women similarly situated.
7. What advice do you have for other women?
Always choose to sit at the conference table and participate. Do not walk into any room or meeting and take a back seat or a seat against the wall. Contribute, make yourself, your opinions, and your needs known, even if they are different than the majority. Never accept: “Because we’ve always done it that way.” Demand change that benefits everyone equally regardless of gender, race, age or disability. Never worry about what people will think or say about you, doing the right thing, using your voice. Demanding and causing change is powerful, and there will always be someone who wants to bring you down. Weaken the naysayers by maintaining your power, voice, composure and professionalism.
8. What’s something others may not know about you?
I love to cook for my family and am writing a family cookbook, with directions, notes and pictures, to maintain the family history and recollections. I believe eating meals as a family, every day, is important and creates a lifetime of remembrances. Although members of the family may move on, the memories from the meals create lasting impressions in all of our senses. When I prepare meals I grew up with, I feel the presence of my grandparents, parents and siblings. I want that to continue with my children and grandchildren. Food is not just nourishment for our bodies to survive, it also feeds our spirit and soul.
Editor’s Note: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina shared one of her favorite family recipes — a broccoli grape salad that’s a crowd pleaser at potlucks and holidays. Check out the recipe here.