Awards Descriptions

NAWJ Awards Descriptions

The Joan Dempsey Klein NAWJ Honoree of the Year Award

Selected by Awards Committee
This award is named in honor of the NAWJ’s Founding Mother, Justice Joan Dempsey Klein.  The award is presented annually to a member who has assisted women judges to become more proficient in their profession, helped to solve the legal, social and ethical problems associated with the judiciary, and worked to increase the number of women serving as judges.

The Florence K. Murray Award

Selected by Awards Committee
This award was instituted by its namesake, the Honorable Florence K. Murray, for presentation to a non-judge who, by example or otherwise, has influenced women to pursue legal careers, opened doors for women attorneys, or advanced opportunities for women within the legal profession.

Mattie Belle Davis Award

Selected by the President in consultation with Executive Committee
The Mattie Belle Davis Award recognizes a member who has gone above and beyond his or her role as a member and volunteer, to help make a difference in the organization and further its mission, as did its namesake, the Honorable Mattie Belle Davis. The Award also is made in recognition of the recipient’s dedication to furthering and supporting women in the legal profession, as exemplified by their extraordinary efforts on behalf of NAWJ these past many years.

The guidelines for selecting the Mattie Belle Davis Award recipient are:

  • The awardee should be a member who has gone above and beyond his or her role as member and volunteer to help make a difference in the organization and furthered its mission, as the Honorable Mattie Belle Davis did.
  • The awardee should not be or have been a member of the Executive Committee of the NAWJ.
  • The awardee should be an individual dedicated to furthering and supporting women in the legal profession.

Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Award

Selected by the President
For outstanding leadership in promoting the vision, core values and mission of NAWJ.

Justice Vaino Spencer was California's first African-American woman judge and one of only a handful of women judges at that time. Appointed to the 93-member California Court of Appeal in 1980, she was for many years the sole African-American woman on that court. An excellent jurist, she was an inspiring groundbreaker who fought for gender equity in the legal profession and to increase the numbers of women appointed to the bench.

Justice Vaino Spencer made significant and long-lasting contributions to the advancement of women in the profession, one of the core missions of NAWJ, and was an outstanding leader in the organization.

Norma Wikler Excellence in Service Award

Selected by the President
Professor Norma Wikler was a sociologist who taught at the University of California Santa Cruz. She was an outstanding teacher who inspired generations of students with her passionate investigation of social inequalities and strategies for social change in a broad range of institutions: the courts and legal system, health care, the military, among others. 

Professor Wikler helped introduce judicial education programs on gender bias in decision making. The first program was given to California judge. In 1980, she became the founding director of the National Judicial Education Program on Gender Bias in the Courts, a project of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. She wrote extensively on women in the courts and was a tireless advocate for women’s rights in the judiciary.


Awarded at the discretion of the President and Executive Committee at a given time rather than an Annual Award
NAWJ’s Lady Justice Award honors a member of the NAWJ community who uses their person and position with equanimity, respect, transparency and impartiality to advance the values of its mission to promote the judicial role in protecting the rights of individuals under the rule of law through strong, committed, diverse judicial leadership; fairness and equality in the courts; and equal access to justice.

Connect With Us

Facebook Twitter