Shirley Hufstedler, a pathbreaking former federal judge who became the nation’s first cabinet-level secretary of education, nominated by President Jimmy Carter, died in Glendale, Calif. She was 90. Her death was announced by Morrison & Foerster, the Los Angeles law firm where she was senior of counsel. The cause was cerebrovascular disease, her son, Dr. Steve Hufstedler, said. Judge Hufstedler was only the second woman named to the federal appellate bench and was widely considered the favorite to be the first woman nominated to the Supreme Court if a vacancy arose during the Carter administration. But none did. The Senate confirmed Judge Hufstedler’s appointment as education secretary, 81 to 2, on Nov. 30, 1979. She presided over the birth of the education department when it was spun off by Congress from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and given a $14 billion budget. She was only 19 when she graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1945 with a degree in business administration. She became one of the first women to graduate from Stanford Law School, finishing 10th in her class, which included one other woman. She was in private practice for a decade. She married a law school classmate, Seth Hufstedler, who survives her and continues to practice as senior of counsel with Morrison Foerster. Besides him and her son, she is survived by three grandchildren.