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The federal judge who halted the military's ban on openly gay troops is known for working at court well past closing time, typing her own court orders and doting on two terriers who themselves are no strangers to the halls of justice.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips won praise from gays and was derided by critics as an activist judge when she issued an injunction Tuesday ending the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy, saying it violates due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The fallout on the polarizing topic has surprised Phillips' friends and colleagues, who said the 53-year-old registered Democrat is much better known in her inner circle for her empathy, her love of Jane Austen novels and her annual walking tours of Europe.

Phillips is popular with her court staff and works harder than anyone to get a case right, said Stephen Larson, a former federal judge in Riverside.

In her tenure as a federal judge, Phillips has handled a wide array of cases, from criminal bank robberies and drug trafficking to civil cases involving the freedoms of religion and speech, police brutality, environmental protections and labor law.


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