NAWJ Monthly Update September 2020

Written by National Association of Women Judges|September 03, 2020|Monthly Update Archive

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Monthly Update

September 2020
Volume 18, Issue 8

Dear Members of NAWJ:

It is difficult to describe the countless ways in which the events of the last six months have altered the landscape of our nation and the world. The indelible mark of the COVID-19 pandemic upon every facet of our lives will undoubtedly continue to shift our collective concept of “normal.”  In these unprecedented times we have had to remain flexible and willing to adapt with each change of course, though at times the way forward can feel gloomy at best. However, I take solace in the fact that one truth remains very clear; the members and leadership of NAWJ have and will continue to provide compassionate leadership, innovation, and dedication to our core mission and values. Now more than ever, our calling 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 is one of vital importance.

Alongside this international pandemic, for several sustained months our constituents throughout the country have raised their voices to shine a blinding light upon the deeply rooted crisis of the systemic inequity and brutalization of African Americans and people of color in our nation. Uprisings nationwide have drawn attention to the insidious methods by which our black and brown citizens have been denied the rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution, and demand justice for those whose lives were cut short.

On June 8, 2020, NAWJ Member and Louisiana’s first African American female Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson authored a letter to colleagues in the Louisiana Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches calling for Justice for All. In her letter Justice Johnson states, “I entreat all of us to resolve to be part of the solution.” Justice Johnson again led by example with her brilliant dissent of the recent decision in State of Louisiana v. Fair Wayne Bryant, which upheld Bryant’s lifelong sentence under habitual offender laws that disproportionately affect African Americans.

Justice Johnson’s words serve to inspire each and every one of us and to demonstrate the power and responsibility inherent in our positions as leaders in the judicial field. As your President I encourage you to read these words and begin forming your own in response. It is our duty to challenge inequity and lead by example: the path toward lasting change and equal access to justice begins with a single step, and I encourage each of us to take it. Let’s begin the conversations and take steps to root out racism and gender bias. 

In closing, I would like to congratulate NAWJ past president Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby for receiving the prestigious Margaret Brent Award from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and NAWJ members Senior Judge Martha Craig “Cissy” Daughtrey; and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor on their inclusion in USA Today’s Women of the Century.

With warm regards,
Hon. Bernadette D’Souza
Judge, Orleans Civil District Court
NAWJ President

OCTOBER 14-16, 2020

To ensure the safety of members, attendees, and supporters, NAWJ’s 42nd Annual Conference will take place online from October 14-16, 2020.  We have a great program planned that includes NAWJ Day at the UN with the International Federation for Peace and Sustainable Development, a virtual wine tasting, networking opportunities, education sessions, awards, and sponsor recognition. The NAWJ Annual Membership Meeting and swearing in ceremony will be held Friday, October 16th, 2020.
NAWJ is grateful to the Nashville Annual Conference Planning Committee for its work in planning to host our member community.  We look forward to October 2021 when we may once again meet together in Music City.   More information about the 2021 annual conference will be forthcoming later this year.
We hope those of you who cannot always attend the NAWJ Annual Conference will take this opportunity to join your colleagues online. You can find more information and registration details on the 2020 Annual Conference website, which will be updated as details are confirmed.  Information about changing an existing registration for the 2020 conference will be sent to registrant's in a separate email. 

We are thankful to the 2020/2021 Conference Sponsors for their continued support during this unprecedented time.


In accordance with the NAWJ Bylaws, the Nominating Committee presents the slate of nominees for the 2020-2021 Executive Committee and Officers. The election of officers shall be held during the Annual Business Meeting on October 16, 2020. Click here for the full slate of nominees and members of the Nominating Committee.


Families in Crisis: The Impact of the Pandemic on Families in the Wake of COVID-19

September 16, 2020
1:00PM EDT / 12:00PM CDT / 11:00AM MDT / 10:00AM PDT / 9:00AM AKDT

For more event details and registration, click here.

Hon. Shelytha Alexander-Simmons, Prairie View Municipal Court, Prairie View, TX
Ms. Mary-Ellen Barrett, San Diego District Attorney's Office, San Diego, CA
Dr. Latoya R. Burt, Keiser University, Jacksonville, FL
Hon. Lori Dougherty-Bichsel, 3rd Judicial District Court of Kansas, Topeka, KS
Hon. Barbara O'Hearn, Office of Administrative Hearings, Oakland, CA
Hon. Nancy Salomone, 20th Judicial District, Colorado, Boulder, CO


This section recognizes of 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. 

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Barbara A. Madsen Named NAWJ Justice Joan Dempsey Klein Honoree of the Year - Washington State Supreme Court Justice Barbara A. Madsen is honored by NAWJ with its Justice Joan Dempsey Klein Award. An NAWJ member since 1987, Justice Madsen was appointed chair of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission in 1998.  Click here to read more about Justice Madsen.

Attorney Donna Melby Honored by NAWJ with the Florence K. Murray Award - Donna Melby, Esq. is one of the nation’s premier business trial attorneys and a long-time NAWJ supporter. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the International Society of Barristers, the Litigation Counsel of America, and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, she has successfully tried multiple cases to jury verdict in state and federal courts across the country, international and domestic arbitrations, and court trials across a broad range of complex civil and employment-related cases.  Click here to learn more about Ms. Melby.

Justice G. Helen Whitener and Judge Kristin L. Rosi Honored - NAWJ Members Justice G. Helen Whitener, Washington State Supreme Court, and Judge Kristin L. Rosi, California Insurance Department, were honored by the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges for “strengthening the Association’s relationship with NAWJ.”  Click here to read more.

NAWJ Past President, The Honorable Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Receives the ABA's Prestigious Margaret Brent Award - Last week, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession honored NAWJ Past President, Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby as a recipient of the Margaret Brent Award. During the virtual ceremony, several friends and colleagues gave moving tributes and she kindly highlighted NAWJ in her acceptance remarks. About the award: Margaret Brent was the first woman lawyer in America, arriving in the colonies in 1638. The Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established by the Commission in 1991, recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers.

NAWJ Members Among USA TODAY's Women of the Century - To mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of 19th Amendment, USA TODAY Network is naming the Women of the Century. This list recognizes 10 women from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and the contributions each made to her state and to the country. Click here to read the many Women of the Century stories.
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
NAWJ Membership Campaign Drive - NAWJ’s Membership Committee is working on a campaign to reach out to those whose memberships in NAWJ have lapsed to encourage them to re-join, and if they choose not to, explore why they have chosen not to continue membership in NAWJ.  The Committee is also working on a campaign to recruit new members by working with District Directors to reach out to judicial officers new to the bench in order to encourage them to join NAWJ.


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.

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