In 1951, 18-year-old Fern Smith went to work as a bookkeeping clerk at the Acme Brewing Co. in San Francisco. She needed the full-time job to care for her ill mother. College was out of the question.

The Acme Brewing Co. is long gone. So are Smith’s days as an anonymous clerk working for minimum wage. Today, Smith is saying goodbye to San Francisco after 11 years on the federal trial bench. She has spent the week being feted by the Bay Area’s legal elite at such places as Boulevard, the pricey Embarcadero restaurant that looks or smells nothing like a brewery.

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