NAWJ Past President, The Honorable Tamila E. Ipema Recipient of the Lawyers Club of San Diego's 2020 Community Service Award

Written by National Association of Women Judges|June 29, 2020|News

ipema.pngThe Lawyers Club of San Diego is proud to recognize the Honorable Tamila E. Ipema as the first Iranian-American judge to receive its 2020 Community Service Award. The Lawyers Club established the Community Service Award in 1985 to honor a member whose service to the community improved the status of women and promoted equality.

Read Arezoo Jamshidi’s account of Judge Ipema’s service below.

To say Judge Ipema’s service improves the status of women and promotes equality is an understatement. She works tirelessly advancing equal access to justice for all, creating pipeline programs for judicial diversity, and helping women, children and other vulnerable populations in San Diego, and internationally. Judge Ipema’s passion for human rights is, in part, born from her experiences growing up in Iran. Instead of surrendering to these inequities, at a young age Judge Ipema decided she would defend civil and human rights and stand up for justice at all costs—and she has spent her career doing just that.

Daily, Judge Ipema ensures self-represented litigants have equal access to justice in her courtroom. For her, trust and confidence in our justice system is everything; and she believes that in order to provide justice for all, self-represented litigants must have trust and confidence in our justice system. Her efforts extend to the courtrooms of her colleagues as a result of her efforts teaching temporary judges on the topics of fairness, implicit bias, and judicial demeanor, served on the Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Advisory Committee and served as a seminar leader for the B. E. Within Judicial College for ten years. She also regularly lectures on topics of equal access to justice and social justice in Pan-American countries.

Judge Ipema promotes diversity in the legal profession by ensuring we have a diverse pipeline of people ready to become attorneys and judges. In 2011, Judge Ipema established the first San Diego Color of Justice Program, a program that provides mentor opportunities and resources to girls and minorities of all ages who wish to enter the legal field. That same year, Judge Ipema presented MentorJet, a “speed mentoring” networking opportunity that provides students with one-on-one access to judges and lawyers who serve as mentors and provide information on various legal careers.

In 2016, Judge Ipema brought the first “Success Inside & Out” program to San Diego. This re-entry program is designed to reduce recidivism by providing educational programs and training on healthy relationships, reconnecting with children, and expungement of criminal records. Judge Ipema encouraged the Grossmont College to provide college courses to soon-to-be released incarcerated women. Since January 2016, thirty women have successfully completed the educational courses, and more than 80 women currently participate in the program.

Judge Ipema’s commitment to human rights is borderless. She is one of six judges named to serve on the Pan-American Commission of Judges on Social Justice. His Holiness Pope Francis created the Commission in June 2019 to educate judges and attorneys on issues of equal access to justice for all, human trafficking, and judicial independence in Americas. Judge Ipema has already presented in Vatican, Brazil, Peru, and will present in Argentina, Colombia and Rome in 2020.

Judge Ipema served as the President of NAWJ for the 2018-2019 year. She received NAWJ’s Mattie Belle Davis Award (2013) for furthering the organization’s mission of “Equal Access to Justice for All,” and was honored at a Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Woman of Color Reception (2015). She received the Tom Homann LGBTQ Law Association’s Friend of the Community Award (2016). She received the Outstanding Jurist Awards from both the San Diego County Bar Association and the University of La Verne College of Law (2016). Judge Ipema is also the recipient of the prestigious California Judges Association Alba Witkin Humanitarian Award (2017), and the Iranian-American Women’s Foundation Women of Influence in Justice and Law Award (2018).

Judge Ipema has always remained true to the promise that she made to herself in childhood. She has dedicated her life to public service, and a day does not go by that she does not try to make a difference in someone’s life.

This article appeared in the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s magazine April 2020. Arezoo Jamshidi’s is a partner at Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and a member of the Community Outreach, Diverse Women’s and Leadership Development Committee.

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