Orfa Jean Shontz

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Orfa Jean Shontz

Orfa Jean Shontz (November 1, 1876 – May 6, 1954) was an American attorney and municipal judge. She was the first female referee of the Juvenile Court of Los Angeles County.

Early life

Orfa Jean Shontz was born on November 1, 1876, in Avoca, Iowa, the daughter of Benjamin Shontz and Jean Anderson Collins.[1][2]

She graduated from Ames College (now Iowa State University)[3] in Iowa and studied law at the University of Southern California.[4][5]


Shontz began her career as a lawyer. She was a practicing attorney by 1913. Her office was at 1030 Citizen's National Bank Building in Los Angeles, California. From 1911 to 1914, while still a student, she became one of the first female probation officers of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court.[4] She was admitted to the bar in 1913, one year before her graduation.[4] From 1914 to 1915 she was secretary to the Los Angeles County Probate Court. From 1915 to 1920 she was woman's department referee of the Juvenile Court of Los Angeles County; she was the first female referee of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court.[4] She created an all-female court, with a homelike atmosphere, to make women feel comfortable, and especially girls involved in sex cases to have the privacy she felt they were entitled to.[5] When she resigned in 1920, her position was taken over by Miriam Van Waters, her close friend.[4] In 1920 she was named City Clerk of Los Angeles but resigned soon to enter private law practice.[3] In 1932 she was named deputy city attorney and in 1934 she won the general election in California for the State Board of Equalization No. 4 for the Democratic Party, 48.3% against 47%. From 1935 to 1947 she was municipal judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court.[1][2]

In 1918 she was the primary candidate for the Los Angeles County Superior Court election.[2]


Shontz sat on the board of directors of the Woman's Athletic Club. She was also president of the Business and Professional Woman's Club and a member of the board of managers of the Los Angeles Business Girls' Club.[1] She held memberships in the Artland Club, P.E.O. Sisterhood, Woman Lawyers' Club, State Bar Association, Los Angeles League of Women Voters, and Phi Delta Delta.[1]

Personal life

Shontz moved to California in 1911.[1] In the 1920s Shontz, Van Waters, Van Waters' friends Sara Fisher and Emily "Pole" Reynolds, a teacher of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Elizabeth "Bess" Woods, founder of the educational-research department for the Los Angeles Board of Education, all lived in a group of residences called the Colony, between Los Angeles and Pasadena. When the Colony burned down, Van Waters, Woods, and Shontz rented a house in Glendale that they called the "Stone House".[5] At the time of her death, Shontz was living at 3518 Carnation Avenue, Los Angeles.[3]

She died on May 6, 1954, and is buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery.[6][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Binheim, Max; Elvin, Charles A (1928). Women of the West; a series of biographical sketches of living eminent women in the eleven western states of the United States of America. p. 83. Retrieved 8 August 2017.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c "Orfa Jean Shontz". Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Miss Orfa Jean Shontz, Ex-Judge, Dies at 77 - 07 May 1954, Fri • Page 32". The Los Angeles Times: 32. 1954. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Odem, Mary E. (2000). Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885–1920. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 216. ISBN 9780807863671. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c Freedman, Estelle B. (1996). Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition. University of Chicago Press. pp. 83, 104, 106. ISBN 9780226261492. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  6. ^ "California Death Index, 1940-1997". FamilySearch. Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
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