NAWJ Monthly Update January 2021

Written by National Association of Women Judges|January 08, 2021|Monthly Update Archive

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Monthly Update

January 2021
Volume 19, Issue 1

Happy New Year! I hope that each of you had a safe, healthy and peaceful holiday season. While we are all undoubtedly delighted to see the end of 2020, we still have a long way to go until we return to any semblance of normality. There is hope, however, and I remain optimistic that we will all be able to travel to Nashville in October. The Nashville Conference Planning Committee, under the leadership of Judge Barbara Holmes, will resume meetings this month.

As I write this, I am sitting in chambers at the King County Courthouse in Seattle. King County was originally named, in 1852, for William R. King, Vice President to Franklin Pierce and a slaveowner. In 1986, the King County Council approved a motion to rename the county to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m not sure exactly when the inscriptions were placed in the main lobby of the courthouse, but of the three Dr. King quotes that appear there, the most poignant to me is the following portion of his commencement address at Oberlin College in 1965:

Never allow it to be said that you are silent onlookers, detached spectators, but that you are involved participants in the struggle to make justice a reality.

As judges, it is incumbent upon us to make justice a reality and advance justice in new and meaningful ways. I’m proud to be associated with dedicated NAWJ members who are working on projects to do just that.

Projects to address access to justice, racial equity and the legitimacy of the judiciary are being developed. A follow-up webinar on racial equity is planned for February. Educational sessions on our new, virtual world are in development for our midyear meeting, which will take place virtually this year on April 15th and 16th. In short, our committees are in full action and our members are involved in making justice a reality.

If you believe you signed up for a committee but have not yet heard from the chair or co-chairs, or if you would like to sign up to participate in a committee but have not yet done so, please let me or Janelle know.

Due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the midyear meeting will be, as stated above, virtual. The tentative program consists of a Welcome Reception/Happy Hour on Thursday, April 15th, followed by two educational sessions the morning of Friday, April 16th. The board meeting will be held Friday afternoon. In addition to the full board, committee chairs will be invited to participate in the meeting. Of course, all members are welcome to attend any board meeting and I encourage those with interest in attending to do so. More details to come.

Again, Happy New Year to all. Please join me in resolving to form new connections within NAWJ and to making it sustainable for years to come.
Warm regards,
Judge Karen Donohue
King County Superior Court
NAWJ President


Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, as co-founder and first President of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) had a profound impact on the judiciary and on women in the legal profession.  NAWJ was founded because of the absence of women on the bench and to address the gender bias and discrimination that women judges experienced.  Due to her vision and advocacy, the face of the judiciary has changed. Justice Klein was a mentor and inspiration to women and diverse members of the legal community. Her list of honors and awards is extremely long, yet she was always approachable, kind and encouraging. 
Click here to continue reading about Justice Klein's NAWJ legacy.  You can submit your own personal tribute to Justice Klein here, which will be posted to the NAWJ website.

Condolences to Justice Klein's family can be sent to the following address:
Susan Bruin
2760 Grandview Street
San Diego, CA  92110


All committee chairs/co-chairs have been notified of their appointments and committee rosters are complete. If you signed up to serve on a committee, but did not receive notice of your committee assignment, please email Janelle Mihoc (  Click here to view a list of the 2020-2021 NAWJ Committees.

Hon. Dayna L. Blazey, 167th District Court, Austin, TX
Hon. Ashlee Crawford, Bronx Criminal Court, Bronx, NY
Ms. Jihane Elizee, Walt Disney World, Winter Garden, FL
Hon. Catherine Chen Hester, Delaware Justice Of The Pease Court, Georgetown, DE
Hon. Maria Cantú Hexsel, 53rd Judicial District Court, Travis County, Austin, TX
Professor Kyle Hollar-Gregory, CUNY/La Guardia College, Jersey City, NJ
Hon. Annette C. Karem, Jefferson District Court, Louisville, KY
Hon. Leslie Osborne, 5th District Court of Appeals, Dallas, TX
Hon. Margaret A. Poissant, 14th Court of Appeals, Houston, TX
Hon. Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt, 449th District Court, Edinburg, TX
Hon. Christina L. Ryba, New York State Supreme Court, Albany, NY
Hon. Gisela D. Triana, 3rd Court of Appeal, Austin, TX
Hon. Margaret Walsh, Third Judicial Court, Albany, NY
Hon. Helen E. Williams, Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County, San Jose, CA


This section recognizes those in our NAWJ community, and keeps our members apprised of notable news going on around the country. Please share any news from your district, yourself, or a member within the NAWJ community on this form so we can include in upcoming NAWJ communications. 

The Honorable Bernadette D'Souza New Chief Judge at Orleans Civil Court  - Former NAWJ President Hon. Bernadette D'Souza has been selected by her peers as the new Chief Judge. Chief Judge D'Souza will serve as Chief Judge for a two-year term during which she will now supervise all administrative functions of the Court while continuing to handle a full Family Court docket. Click here to read the full press release.  

The Honorable Sheva M. Sims Selected to Serve on the Louisiana Commissions on Justice System Funding - The Honorable Sheva M. Sims of Shreveport City Court, Division D, was appointed to serve on the Louisiana Commission on Justice System Funding by Shreveport City Court Chief Judge Pammela Lattier, President of the Louisiana City Judges Association. Click here to read full press release.

The Honorable Karen Matson Donohue - NAWJ President Judge Karen Donohue has been appointed to a two-year position as Chief Criminal Judge at King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington.

The Honorable Michelle Rick Elected to Court of Appeals - Judge Michelle Rick was elected to the Michigan 4th District Court of Appeals and assumed office on January 1, 2021.  Click here to read more.

The Honorable Ernestine Gray Honored with the ABA's Charles R. English Award - Judge Ernestine Gray, NAWJ member and Co-Chair of the Juvenile Justice & Child Welfare committee, was honored at the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section Awards in November 2020 with the Charles R. English Award. Click here to read more.

The Honorable Dori Contreras Joins Executive Committee for the Council of Chief Judges for the State Courts of Appeal - Chief Justice Dori Contreras of NAWJ District 11 joins the Executive Committee for the Council of Chief Judges for the State Courts of Appeal (CCJSCA). She will also serve on the Membership Committee of the CCJSA. Click here to read more District 11 member spotlights.

Remembering The Honorable Shirley Abrahamson - Longtime NAWJ member and 2015 Joan Dempsey Klein Award recipient Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson passed away on December 19, 2020.  She was a mentor and dear friend to many NAWJ members. Click here to read more.
NAWJ is grateful for the 2020 Resource Board Members and Landmark Sponsors who have generously supported our organization.

Resource Board Members
Nicole Erb, Esq. (Co-Chair), White & Case LLP
Sarah London, Esq. (Co-Chair), Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Elizabeth Cabraser, Esq., Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Kelly Dermody, Esq., Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Andrea Bear Field, Esq., Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Patricia Hollenbeck, Esq., Duane Morris LLP
Jamie Zysk Isani, Esq., Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Robert Kaufman, Esq., Proskauer Rose LLP
Heather McDevitt, Esq., White & Case LLP
Diane McGimsey, Esq., Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
The Honorable Mary Becnel, Retired
Ron DaLessio, CourtCall
Dawn Jayma, The Killino Firm, PC
Linda Leali, Esq., Linda Leali, P.A.
Thomas Leighton, Thomson Reuters
Afsoon McClellan, LexisNexis
Donna Melby, Esq., Paul Hastings
Elaine Metlin, Esq., Retired
Christopher Poole, JAMS
Cathy Winter-Palmer, Retired
Landmark Sponsors
The Honorable Mary Becnel
Robert Kaufman
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Thomson Reuters Corporation
White & Case LLP

JAMS, Inc.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP


Did you know you can support NAWJ when you are shopping through Amazon?  AmazonSmile is a way for you to support a charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you.  AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to NAWJ when you select us as your charitable organization of choice.  Get started today by enrolling as an AmazonSmile customer or selecting NAWJ as your organization of choice if you are already enrolled.


Since its formation in 1979, NAWJ has inspired and led the American judiciary in achieving fairness and equality for vulnerable populations. 

NAWJ’s mission is to promote the judicial role of 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.



NAWJ Webinar | Supreme Women: A Quartet of Justices Making Texas History
January 21, 2021

SAVE THE DATE | 2021 Virtual Midyear Opening Reception
April 15, 2021

SAVE THE DATE | 2021 Virtual Midyear Meeting
April 16, 2021

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