Cynthia Holcomb Hall, 82, a trailblazer for women in the federal judiciary who evoked controversy during a legal career that spanned six decades, died Saturday at her home in Pasadena, Calif., after a long battle with cancer.

A controversial choice for the U.S. Tax Court when President Richard Nixon appointed her in 1972, Judge Hall weathered critics' efforts to have her thrown off the bench because of concerns that her husband's job heading the tax department of a Los Angeles law firm posed potential conflicts of interest.

But Judge Hall was as well-known for the ornamental gardens she created and nurtured at the Pasadena courthouse as she was for the opinions she penned in a judicial career that began with the tax court appointment. President Ronald Reagan named her to a U.S. District Court post in 1981 and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit three years later.

Though on semiretired senior status since 1997 and undergoing cancer treatment, Judge Hall continued to hear cases until recently.

She was often on the conservative side of issues decided by the court, upholding in a 2007 ruling federal agents' right to infiltrate the private North American Man/Boy Love Association to investigate suspected criminal conduct and dissenting from a court majority in 2003 in a case that reinstated a wrongful-death suit against gun manufacturers in a Los Angeles hate crime.

Born in Los Angeles, the daughter of a U.S. Navy admiral, Judge Hall earned her undergraduate and law degrees at Stanford University and served as a reservist in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps.

- Los Angeles Times