NAWJ Monthly Update May 2015

Written by National Association of Women Judges|May 01, 2015|Monthly Update Archive

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May 2015

In This Issue:


Law Day, set on the first day of May, focuses on the adherence to the rule of law whose origins date back to the Magna Carta signed 800 years ago this coming June. The Magna Carta provided the framework from which many of the fundamental rights embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights were drawn. Clause 39 of the Magna Carta, which states "no freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseized or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimized … except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land" is celebrated as the source of our country's guarantee of due process, the right to a jury trial, and the basis for a habeas corpus action. Similar language appears in the Declaration of Rights in the Maryland Constitution of 1776.

President Eisenhower proclaimed the first Law Day in 1958, by stating it a day "dedicated to the principles of government under laws." It is a day to recognize and celebrate the laws that protect our individual rights and civil liberties. It was on Law Day in 1959 that the Governor of New York lashed out through the media at the Governor of Arkansas for his attempts to block black children from attending Little Rock Central High School in stating," it offends the concept of law on which our society is based.". As noted in the 2007 New York Times editorial, "As long as there [is] a national consensus about the importance of the rule of law, Law Day [feels] superfluous - like celebrating gravity."

But, if this critical imperative begins to fade from the nation's collective conscience, Law Day should serve as a catalyst to reeducate and renew the conversation. This May, when I reflected on what action NAWJ through its members has undertaken to compel the rule of law be followed, my mind went directly to the dedicated and passionate work of the Women in Prison Committee led by Co-Chairs Judges Brenda Murray and Betty Williams, together with Judge Cheryl Gonzales, and guided by the ongoing active commitment of retired Judge Patricia Wald and Prof. Judith Resnik, and our immediate Past President, Anna Blackburne-Rigsby - among many others.

The relentless efforts to halt the transfer of women from the Danbury Women's Correctional facility to a prison in Alabama, far from the children and family members of these incarcerated women, and to investigate and expose the conditions in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a temporary holding facility while the Danbury prison is being 'renovated,' have received national attention. In February, following their interview and follow-up with Sister Megan Rice, National Public Radio aired a segment entitled, "Supporters Say Imprisoned Nun is Being Held in 'Unfair' Conditions," bringing to the forefront the serious state of the conditions at MDC: NPR noted: "Rice, … with the help of friends and advocates including the National Association of Women, is drawing attention to the conditions inside U.S. correctional facilities," and then went on to quote several NAWJ members.

A more detailed investigation of MDC and several inmate interviews by the WIP committee led to a report enumerating their findings that the conditions clearly fall below the ABA and UN standards for detention facilities. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Prison now has the NAWJ supported report, and further meetings in Washington D.C. are expected this month. NAWJ is proud to be an active voice for rights of incarcerated women, to ensure the rule of law and its progeny are being fully exercised for the benefit of all in our society - in the month which begins with Law Day, and in the year that recognizes the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta - and every day.



Judge Julie E. Frantz

President's Calendar:
April 14-16: Women's Power Summit: Hosted by of the Women in Law Center in Austin, Texas
April 22-25: The Midyear Meeting and Leadership Conference in Chicago
May 28: Washington D.C: Opportunity to Meet with the Members of NAWJ's Fourth District

Member Spotlight: Q&A with Judge Colleen Brown
Deepening the Connection between U.S. Bankruptcy Judges and
NAWJ members.

The Honorable Colleen Brown has been a member of NAWJ since 2000. She has served as Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Vermont since April 10, 2000. She is an author for Collier on Bankruptcy, 15th edition revised, and an associate editor for the American Bankruptcy Law Journal. Judge Brown was the recipient of the New York State Bar Association's President's Pro Bono Service Award in 1992 and the Vermont Bar Association's Pro Bono Service Award in 2006. She and her family reside in Middlebury, Vermont. You may read her full bio here.

In 2012, Judge Brown was appointed Co-Chair of NAWJ's Federal Judges Committee, and last year she was appointed State Chair for Vermont in NAWJ's District Two. NAWJ decided to catch up with Judge Brown and find out a little more about her.

Q&A with Judge Colleen Brown

Judge Brown, you seemed to have started your legal career in the field of bankruptcy and stayed. What captured you about bankruptcy?

I took two bankruptcy courses in law school that were taught by a dynamic professor named Marjorie Girth. She stressed the equitable nature of bankruptcy relief, the dual goals of equality of distributions to similarly situated creditors and a fresh start for debtors, and the opportunities for creative lawyering in reorganization cases. All of it appealed to my keen sense of wanting to "do justice" and work in an area where thinking outside the box was valued. With Professor Girth's assistance I landed my first bankruptcy position right out of law school - as the law clerk to the Chief Bankruptcy Judge in Buffalo, New York. And, one thing led to another such that I ended up focusing my entire professional life on bankruptcy law - and loved it. (P.S. Marjorie Girth has become a close friend, and she and I are still in regular contact, over 30 years later.)

What have been some of the highlights and challenges you've faced during your tenure as Chief Judge?

I enjoy all aspects of bankruptcy practice and judicial service, but I especially enjoy presiding over Chapter 13 cases. In Chapter 13 cases, individual debtors repay a portion of the debt they owe over a period of 3 to 5 years, according to a plan they propose. It is my role to determine if each Chapter 13 plan complies with the Bankruptcy Code, and if so, to confirm it. If the debtor makes all the payments required under his or her confirmed plan, a discharge of debts is entered and the debtor has a "fresh start." So many people are ashamed of their inability to repay their creditors and turn to bankruptcy relief as a last resort. By pursuing Chapter 13, they are able to pay at least a portion of what they owe and get relief from creditors while they are making payments under their Chapter 13 plan. This repayment over time allows them to feel good about themselves, because they know they are paying as much as they can and that they will be released from the balance. It encourages them to hold their heads up high in the community and retain their sense of dignity. This is especially important in a place like Vermont where the creditors are neighbors and folks one sees at the school soccer games, at the community church, and around town. I consider this human dignity component a crucial benefit of Chapter 13. I also strongly believe everyone is entitled to a fresh start and am truly thrilled to be the one who confirms these plans and grants the discharges. At the hearings I hold on confirmation of Chapter 13 plans, I make a point of commending the Chapter 13 debtors, recognizing that paying a Chapter 13 plan will entail financial sacrifice on their part for 3 to 5 years, and urging them to follow the steps I am outlining to maximize the likelihood of success. … Many judges focus on imposing punishment. Bankruptcy judges have the marvelous role of granting forgiveness of debts and a fresh start to honest debtors. What a privilege that is.

I also enjoy performing naturalization ceremonies. Everyone leaves happy.

While the Bankruptcy Court is a court of equity, there are often situations where doing what is required by the law and doing what feels most just in the particular situation are not the same. I find those situations quite challenging - particularly when I am dealing with consumer debtors, most of whom find themselves in bankruptcy for reasons beyond their control (loss of employment, uninsured medical calamity or divorce). The cases where the parties have strong animus against each other are also difficult.

Every judge has to deal with both of these types of cases, and they are often heart wrenching. But, at the end of the day, what I try to focus on is whether everyone left the courtroom feeling they had been heard and had been treated with respect. That is my goal.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

That is a tough one. … As long as we can talk in the world of fantasy here, I would want Katharine Hepburn to play me in the film of my life. She was so fabulous as an attorney in Adam's Rib and has always been one of my on screen role models. She was such an intelligent, spunky, thoughtful, and elegant woman, and she played such a wide array of characters. Katharine Hepburn struck me as someone who could do it all, was always ready with a witty come back, was entirely unflappable, and was both strong and vulnerable - able to stand her ground and demonstrate the capacity for deep understanding and love. I can only dream of having all of her strengths and gifts!

In the summer issue of last year's Counterbalance newsletter you shared that you were recently voted Chair of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges-NAWJ Liaison Committee. What's next for the committee, or what's happening in the world of bankruptcy that might be worthwhile on the radar of NAWJ?

The primary mission of that Liaison Committee is to deepen the connection between U.S. Bankruptcy Judges and NAWJ members. To achieve that, the Liaison Committee organizes and hosts an annual "Meet and Greet" breakfast event at the annual National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. We invite all the female bankruptcy judges in attendance at the conference, as well as all local NAWJ members. We talk about what NAWJ does, share stories of why membership in this organization is meaningful to us, and invite NCBJ members to ask questions. We hand out information about NAWJ as well as applications to join NAWJ. This year, we will be holding our 3rd annual NCBJ-NAWJ Breakfast at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach on September 29th. We already have a lot of enthusiasm for it in both the NCJB and the Miami area NAWJ chapter. I am very excited about it and hope that once again it will generate greater understanding of, and membership in, NAWJ.

Apple or Android?

Apple for sure. I am late to come to Apple (and had a hard time giving up my old Blackberry), but I have to admit I would now be lost without my iPhone.

What's your favorite opinion?

Interesting question … I don't have a favorite opinion. I most value decisions that are concise, well reasoned, and provide clear guidance.

What is your favorite movie and the best book you've have read lately?

Rear Window - the Alfred Hitchcock classic with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly - is my all time favorite movie. I love to read and have many favorite books, but if we limit it to those I have read lately, it would be All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Both are beautifully written, thought-provoking, and totally engaging.

What other career might you have pursued if not one in law?

Probably politics - I feel a duty to live my life and devote my energies to make the world a better place, and I am still idealistic enough to believe that our political system has the potential to do that. When I went to law school, that is where I expected life would take me. However, I have no regrets about the path I took. I find this career to be intellectually challenging, philosophically interesting, and personally rewarding - in myriad ways.

Judge Becton really wants to know what's at the bottom of everyone's pocketbook?

My hairbrush - it rarely comes out.

I want to know…as a Vermonter, are you particular about your syrup, or do you buy whatever's on sale?

I only buy Vermont syrup … but I need to correct your question: I am not a Vermonter. To be a Vermonter, you must have been born here (and some would say you must have at least one generation in the ground!). I moved to Vermont when I was appointed to this position, in 2000, so I am definitely a "flat lander" rather than a Vermonter, and would be considered a newcomer by true Vermonters.

I consider myself a bit of a "foodie" and "locavore" so I always try to cook with local ingredients and buy foods that are in season here in Vermont. So, I would buy Vermont maple syrup and Vermont products whenever I can, even if there is another option on sale.

Call for Nominations for
2015-2016 NAWJ Board of Directors Positions

The Nominating Committee of the National Association of Women Judges seeks nominees for the following positions for the 2014 - 2015 term:

Vice President for Districts
Vice President for Publications
International Director


The duties of the above positions are set out in the NAWJ Bylaws at:
Article. X (Duties of Officers) and
Article. VIII (Representatives to Other Organizations.)

Article. IX provides:
§1: "Only voting members of the organization in good standing shall be eligible to hold office." §2(b) "The Nominating Committee shall present at least one (l) nominee for each officer's position. A nomination for each officer's position also may be submitted in writing to the Nominating Committee by petition of no less than nine (9) voting members of the organization at least sixty (60) days prior to the Annual Meeting. The list of nominees for each position designated by the Nominating Committee and by petition shall be circulated to the voting membership at least thirty (30) days prior to the Annual Meeting. Nominations for all officer positions may also be made by voting members from the floor at the Annual Meeting provided such nominees' names have previously been submitted to the Nominating Committee and the Nominating Committee has failed to endorse their candidacy."

Article. XI, §7 provides:
"The Nominating Committee, chaired by the Immediate Past President, shall consist of no less than nine (9) members selected to afford fair representation to all regions of the country. Names of the members of the Nominating Committee shall be circulated by the President to the voting members not less than ninety (90) days prior to the Annual Meeting."

* * *

We invite you to nominate yourself or another member (with consent) for any of these offices.

Only voting members, current members who are either sitting or retired member judges, in good standing are eligible to hold office and remain subject to the canons of judicial conduct.

Please submit a letter stating the roles the nominee has played in NAWJ activities, including particular accomplishments you wish to bring to the committee's attention, and the nominee's curriculum vita. The letter also should include a paragraph on the strengths the nominee would bring to the leadership of the organization, such as, for example, past financial experience for the position of treasurer. Current officers seeking a different office must submit a letter of nomination. The President-Elect must have served a term as Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer, or, as Chair of the Projects Committee or the Finance Committee. Candidates for the position of President-Elect should also address their plans to continue and build on NAWJ's existing projects and programs and to implement NAWJ's Strategic Plan, which can be found at NAWJ's website.

Individual nominations, nominations by petition and letters of support must be submitted to the Nominating Committee by Friday, July 10, 2015.

Please address letters to:
National Association of Women Judges
ATTN: Hon. Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Chair, Nominating Committee
1001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 1138
Washington, D.C. 20036
Fax: (202) 393-0125 or
Email: and

* * *

Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Chair

Judge Bernice Donald, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Justice Nan Duffly, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Chief Justice Dana Fabe, Alaska Supreme Court
Chief Judge Jennifer Gee, U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Administrative Law Judges
Judge Marcella Holland, Circuit Court for Baltimore City (Retired)
Judge Gladys Kessler, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Judge Brenda Loftin, St. Louis County Circuit Court (Retired)
Justice Judith McConnell, California Court of Appeal
Chief Justice Amy Nechtem, Administrative Office of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court
Justice Bea Ann Smith, Texas Court of Appeals (Retired)
Judge Vanessa Ruiz, District of Columbia Court of Appeals

NAWJ Awards Committee Seeks Nominations
for Annual Hon. Joan Dempsey Klein Honoree of the Year Award
and Florence K. Murray Award

NAWJ Executive Committee and President to Consider Candidates for Mattie Belle Davis
Award and Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Award

The NAWJ Awards Committee requests nominations for the Honorable Joan Dempsey Klein Honoree of the Year Award and for the Florence K. Murray Award. Nominations will be accepted until the deadline of August 7, 2015. To assist you in nominating candidates for these two awards, click here for application guidelines for the KLEIN Award, and here for the MURRAY Award.

In addition, the Executive Committee and the President will respectively select 2015 honorees for the Mattie Belle Davis Award and the Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Award. Click here to review guidelines for the Mattie Belle Davis and Justice Vaino Spencer Awards.

Awards will be given out during the 37th Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Please submit completed nominations no later than August 8 to by mail or fax to:

National Association of Women Judges
Attn: Hon. Amy L. Nechtem
1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1138
Washington, D.C. 20036
Fax: 202-393-0125

Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa County Superior Court
Judge Diana S. Eagon, Hennepin County District Court (Retired)
Chief Justice Dana Fabe, Alaska Supreme Court
Judge Brenda Loftin, St. Louis County Circuit Court (Retired)
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Washington State Supreme Court
Judge Vanessa Ruiz, District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Hon. Michele Christiansen, Utah Court of Appeals
Hon. Sharon McCully (Retired), 3rd District Juvenile Court
Education: Hon. Kate Toomey, Utah Court of Appeals
Tammy G. Georgelas, Esq., Parsons Behle & Latimer
Margaret N. McGann, Esq., Parsons Behle & Latimer

NAWJ 37th Annual Conference
October 7-11, 2015 • Salt Lake City, Utah
Grand America Hotel


Optional Tours
Film Screening of Women Trailblazers in the Law: Utah's First 100 Women Lawyers
International Judges Reception
New Judges/First-Time Attendee Reception
Welcome Reception

Gender Bias: How Far Have We Come in 25 Years?
After Marriage: A Dialogue on LGBT Rights and Religious Liberties
Keynote Speaker: Professor Sujata Warrier
Impact of Media/Social Media on High Profile Cases
Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline
The Uneasy Intersection of Law And Medicine
Reception at the National History Museum

Erwin Chemerinsky
Immigration Issues Facing Local, State and Federal Courts
Human Trafficking: A Pro Bono Counsel's View of U.S. v. Adan
Friends Appreciation Luncheon
Evidentiary Issues Involving Magnetic Images of the Brain
Domestic Sex Trafficking: Overcoming the Barriers to Successful Prosecutions
Predictable Misjudgment: How Intuition Misleads Judges
Justice Reinvestment Initiative: A National Perspective
A Conversation with Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
Where Are We Almost 50 Years After In Re Gault?
Utah Women Lawyers Judicial Reception

Annual NAWJ Business Meeting
Mindfulness and Meditation
Personal Story - Born in Prison, A Woman Rises Against the Odds
Annual NAWJ Gala Banquet

Live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word featuring The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

$525 for Members who are First-Time Attendees
$595 for NAWJ Members ($550 Earlybird rate until April 25, 2015)
$695 for Non-Member Attendees
$575 Guest Rate for Spouse and Children of Attendees ($550 Earlybird rate until April 25, 2015)

Register online here, or download and fax this registration form.

Call (800) 304-8696 • NAWJ Rate: $189/night, plus applicable taxes

For More Information Contact:
Conference Manager: Mary Kathleen Todd at

Trafficking in Persons: Modern Day Slavery

An NAWJ Program Manual on Human Trafficking

For several years, NAWJ has partnered with The Human Trafficking and State Courts Collaborative on education programs for members and NAWJ presented trafficking programs. Last month, the partnership announced the publication of Trafficking in Persons: Modern Day Slavery, A Program Manual. NAWJ Human Trafficking Committee Chair Judge Elizabeth K. Lee, Judge Reneé Forgensi Minarik and the Hon. Arline Pacht and, along with Human Trafficking and the State Courts Collaborative partners President David A. Price, Ph.D. and consultant John A. Martin, Ph.D. are excited to share their years of works in the new manual. Special thanks also go to the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, and the many contributions from NAWJ Human Trafficking Committee members.

Click here to review the Manual.

Congratulations to NAWJ Past President Justice Nan Duffly
an ABA Commission on Women in the Profession
2015 Margaret Brent Award Honoree

Awards presented at
Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards Luncheon
Sunday, August 2nd in Chicago, Illinois

The 2015 Honorees:
Mari Carmen Aponte, Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador
Lieutenant General Flora D. Darpino, U. S. Army, Judge Advocate General
Justice Fernande R.V. (Nan) Duffly, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Mary Ann Hynes, Esq., Senior Counsel, Dentons US LLP; Formerly, SVP, General Counsel, Ingredion
Professor Emma Coleman Jordan, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC

NAWJ's 2015 Chicago Midyear Convened, Inspired
Hundreds of 'Voices of Justices'

(Click here to view photos.)

Approximately 130 judges, attorneys and legal experts convened as 'Voices of Justice" from April 23-25, 26 at the Palmer Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Timely subjects include: Gang Involvement in Human Trafficking, What Judges Can Do about Human Trafficking, Nuts and Bolts of NAWJ's Informed Voters-Fair Judges Project, Women in the Legal Profession, Appointing Women to Boards and Commissions, Restorative Justice, and Immigration. Keynote speakers Laurel Bellows Cheryl Brown Henderson and Chief Judge Ruben Castillo each delivered engaging remarks on equity and social progress. And, whether the views were from the top floors of Jenner & Block or the misty rooftop deck of Chicago's famous architecture foundation river cruise, attendees found much to apply back home to their courts, their communities and themselves.

Click here to view photos

NAWJ Meets with the Congressional Women's Caucus
July 9th on Capitol Hill • Noon-1:30 PM

On July 9th NAWJ will meet with available members of the Congressional Women's Caucus on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office Building. NAWJ President Judge Julie Frantz will join Caucus Co-Chairs Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Representative Doris O. Matsui (D-CA) in chairing this year's meeting. The meeting is open to any and all members, though members will need to bear any costs associated with attending on their own. Stay tuned for further details as the program develops, and logistics are finalized.

Vice President of Publications Judge Diana Becton
Calls for Submissions for the Next Issue of Counterbalance
Deadline: June 15, 2015

Counterbalance informs and connects our members around the country by featuring news and information which highlights NAWJ's activities. Share news from your jurisdiction with fellow members in the newsletter. If you know of women judges in your state who have been recently elected, appointed, promoted or honored, let us know. If you have articles, announcements, book reviews, or events that you would like included in Counterbalance, please pass them along as well. NAWJ will also publish essays and articles of interest which are in accord with our mission.

Anybody can share news in Counterbalance. The deadline for submitting information for the next issue of Counterbalance is JUNE 15, 2015. Look for the spring issue later in the summer. Those interested in submitting material should do so by emailing all text and picture files to Lavinia Cousin at Please also copy Judge Becton at

Landmark Sponsor GEICO

Part of NAWJ and GEICO's partnership will provide insurance discounts to NAWJ members. Contact GEICO for a free quote on auto insurance to see how much you could be saving. And, don't forget to mention your NAWJ affiliation; you could qualify for an exclusive member savings opportunity. Visit (special portal here) or call 1-800-368-2734 for your free rate quote. GEICO can also help you find great rates on homeowners, renters, motorcycle insurance, and more!

Calendar of Programs and Events

The Annual NAWJ Meeting with the Congressional Women's Caucus will take place on July 9, 20515 from noon to 1:30 pm on Capitol Hill. All members are welcome. RSVP to

NAWJ will hold its 37th Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah from October 8-11, 2015.


The International Association of Women Judges Biennial will be hosted in the United States by the National Association of Women Judges in Washington D.C. from May 26-29, 2016.

NAWJ 37th Annual Conference will take place in Seattle, Washington from October 5-9, 2016 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

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