NAWJ Monthly Update October 2014

Written by National Association of Women Judges|October 01, 2014|Monthly Update Archive

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October 2014

In This Issue:

Dear Members and Friends!

It has been an honor and privilege to have served as your President for the 2013-2014 term. As my tenure draws to a close, I can think of no better way to finish my presidency than at NAWJ's 36th Annual Conference in San Diego, California. The Annual Conference theme - "Protecting and Advancing Meaningful Access to Justice" - draws on the theme that I chose for my tenure as NAWJ President, "Ensuring Access to Justice for All." This conference is a continuation of the ideas discussed during the Midyear Meeting in Washington, D.C., and will further explore how we, as women judges, can work to ensure that all members of society are more meaningfully accessing justice, which affects our ability as a nation to realize the true promise of justice afforded by our judicial system and by our democracy.

Briefly, I also want to highlight the importance of modern technology to the advancement of access to justice and other NAWJ goals. Technology, such as social media, new media, and smart devices, can help increase transparency and foster collaboration within NAWJ, as well as improve awareness of NAWJ's brand, initiatives, and message to the communities we serve. For example, we promoted NAWJ's Emmy award winning film "Fair and Free," featuring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor for the Informed Voters Project via digital media, including YouTube and other video distribution websites, as a way to share our message with a broader audience. We also conducted a multistate webinar on human trafficking for NAWJ's District Directors and State Chairs. Now, for the first time, I will make available my full President's Annual Report online at, which will be accessible in time for the Annual Conference. This e-report is optimized for all internet-capable devices including smartphones and tablets. As members of NAWJ, you can view the report and its highlights where, when, and how you want. It is my hope that NAWJ will continually adapt and incorporate new technologies and methods to further our mission and broaden our reach.

I am proud of the important work that we have accomplished this year. We accomplished it working together with so many of our members contributing their time and energy. I want to thank President-Elect, Judge Julie Frantz, for her friendship and support, along with each of the wonderful NAWJ officers, Executive Committee members and other Board members, for your hard work this year. I also thank our dedicated Resource Board, co-chaired by Elaine Metlin, Esq., and Karen Johnson-McKewan, Esq. Finally, I want to recognize NAWJ's dynamic staff for their invaluable help each step of the way. I thank Marie Komisar, NAWJ's Executive Director, for her tireless work on behalf of NAWJ and for her personal support. And I truly appreciate Craig Evans, Lavinia Cousin, and Mary-Kathleen Todd for their work in ensuring the continued successful operation of NAWJ programs and projects.

I also want to thank my husband, Judge Robert R. Rigsby and our son Julian for their support and encouragement during my term as NAWJ President. It has truly been my honor to serve.

Anna Blackburne-Rigsby
President, NAWJ

NAWJ Awards Committee Names
2014 Justice Joan Dempsey Klein Honoree of the Year
NAWJ Past President Judge Amy N. Nechtem

2014 Florence K. Murray Award to
Former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi

2014 Justice Joan Dempsey Klein Honoree of the Year

The Honorable Amy L. Nechtem served as Associate Justice for thirteen years prior to her appointment as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court Department in July of 2014. As Chief, she oversees judges and court staff in Massachusetts and the administration and management of policy and practice affecting juvenile courts throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Chief Justice Nechtem was a state prosecutor for fifteen years in Boston supervising a major felony unit and holds specialty training in the litigation of child abuse crimes. Chief Justice Nechtem received the Judicial Excellence Award presented by her peers from the Massachusetts Judges Conference. She was awarded the Outstanding Community Service Award from her alma mater, Simmons College, for her lifelong public service and commitment to women, children and her devotion to issues affecting the fair and equal access to justice in our courts. She graduated with honors from Boston's Suffolk University Law School. Her daughter Kate has followed in her footsteps as a public service lawyer in Boston. After ten years of serving in various leadership roles on its Board of Directors, Chief Justice Amy L. Nechtem was selected in 2011 to serve as President of NAWJ. She co-chaired a committee whose work resulted in the development and implementation of the Strategic Plan. This plan was adopted by the Board to guide the organization through 2018. Chief Justice Nechtem served on the Finance, Personnel, IAWJ 2016 Biennial Committees. She is co-chair of the Juvenile Justice/ Child Welfare Committee for NAWJ. During her tenure as President of NAWJ, she fostered a partnership with the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund focusing its efforts on juvenile justice education and best practices promoting positive outcomes for families and children. Recently, Chief Justice Nechtem represented NAWJ in Bulgaria regarding issues of judicial independence and juvenile justice for the Bulgarian Judicial Association.

The Joan Dempsey Klein NAWJ Honoree of the Year Award honors a judge who brings distinction to her office and to the NAWJ as exemplified by NAWJ founding mother, Justice Joan Dempsey Klein.

2014 Florence K. Murray Awardee

For twenty-seven years, Nancy Pelosi has represented California's 12th District in the House of Representatives. The 12th District includes most of the City of San Francisco - Bayview, Chinatown, Mission, North Beach, Presidio, SOMA, Sunset and many of the diverse neighborhoods that make San Francisco a vibrant and prosperous community. As the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 113th Congress, Representative Pelosi is focused on jumpstarting the middle class by creating jobs here at home, expanding affordable access to education, and empowering America's women and families. From 2007-2011, Representative Pelosi served as Speaker of the House, the first woman to do so in American history. She first made history in November 2002 when House Democrats elected her the first woman to lead a major political party in Congress. Representative Pelosi has led House Democrats for more than a decade and previously served as House Democratic Whip. Under the leadership of then Speaker Pelosi, the 111th Congress was heralded as "one of the most productive Congresses in history" by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein. President Barack Obama called Speaker Pelosi "an extraordinary leader for the American people," and the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "...make no mistake: Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful woman in American politics and the most powerful House Speaker since Sam Rayburn a half century ago."

The Florence K. Murray 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.

NAWJ Executive Committee Awards
2014 Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership to
Human Trafficking Committee Chair Judge Elizabeth Lee

2014 Mattie Belle Davis Award to
Resource Board Member Harriet Wesig

Norma Wickler Excellence in Service Award to
Women in Prison Committee Co-Chair Justice Betty Williams

2014 Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Awardee

Judge Elizabeth Lee was appointed to the Superior Court bench of San Mateo County in July of 2005. She is the first Asian Pacific American judge to serve on the bench in San Mateo County. In addition to her current assignment as a Juvenile Court Judge where she handles delinquency and dependency matters, Judge Lee presides over matters in the Youth Court of East Palo Alto and is the head of San Mateo County's Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care. Judge Lee remains involved in promoting a greater awareness of human trafficking particularly with respect to children who have been sexually and commercially exploited, working with other stakeholders in the court system to improve services to these minor victims. She is also a member of the California Judicial Council's Advisory Committee on Collaborative Justice Courts. She is currently Chair of the Human Trafficking subcommittee for the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). Prior to joining the bench, Judge Lee worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California, working on a number of criminal investigations involving human trafficking. She served as the Deputy Chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force from 1999 to 2005. Judge Lee also worked as an Associate for the law firm of Marron, Reid & Sheehy in San Francisco. She was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia, and a Trial Attorney in the Honors Program for the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, in Washington, D.C. Judge Lee earned her JD from Columbia University School of Law in 1983, and a BA in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979.

The Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Award honoree is selected by the President for outstanding leadership in promoting the vision, core values and mission of NAWJ.

2014 Mattie Belle Davis Awardee

Harriet Wesig is an accomplished marketing professional with over 11 years of business to business experience. She joined LexisNexis in 2003, and currently leads the marketing team in the State and Local Government segment. Her strengths are in utilizing a unique formula to demonstrate the tangible value marketing can bring to an organization. She successfully builds meaningful customer relationships with the ultimate objective of enhancing their overall goals and those of the businesses they serve. LexisNexis is a charter member of the Resource Board and Attorney Wesig has been a member of the Resource Board since 2012. LexisNexis is a key sponsor of NAWJ's Color of Justice program which was created by NAWJ Past President Brenda Stith Loftin and has motivated young girls and women to be better students, better citizens and, most importantly, has inspired them to become lawyers and judges. The Color of Justice program was launched in August of 2001 in St. Louis, Missouri at the Washington University School of Law. Since that time, LexisNexis has provided the resources to enable over 2,000 students in 25 states to attend a Color of Justice program. Attorney Wesig and LexisNexis have continued to demonstrate its support for NAWJ by providing resources to the Informed Voters/Fair Judges Project (IVP). This spring LexisNexis assisted in launching the nationwide virtual premier of "Fair and Free," an Emmy award winning video featuring retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. IVP seeks to raise awareness about the importance of an independent judiciary free of the influence of special interest groups. Attorney Wesig has identified a dedicated LexisNexis resource for each of the project's target states; this group works with the project's state coordinating committee chairs and members to produce webinars and plan effective distribution of activities and messages. NAWJ, IVP and their partners are grateful for the support provided by Attorney Wesig and LexisNexis. Attorney Wesig earned her law degree from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio and is a member of the Ohio Bar.

Mattie Belle Davis awardee is 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 be an individual dedicated to furthering and supporting women in the legal profession.

2014 Norma Wickler Excellence in Service Awardee

Justice Betty J. Williams was elected November 2013, to New York State Supreme Court, having been appointed an Acting Supreme Court Justice March 31, 2009. Following her November 2009 election to Civil Court, Justice Williams was assigned to Kings County Criminal Court where she presided in the Arraignment Parts, All Purpose Parts, Domestic Violence Parts, Trial Parts and Jury 1. Before Justice Williams was assigned to Supreme Court in 2014, she presided in the Misdemeanor Brooklyn Treatment Court (MBTC) and Part 70 (felony), Kings County Criminal Court. MBTC and Part 70 follow the national drug court model, where long term substance abuse offenders are given the opportunity to receive treatment instead of incarceration. Justice Williams was assigned to New State Supreme Court, Criminal Term, Kings County in January 2014.

Community Involvement and Public Service: Justice Williams is the National Association of Women Justices (NAWJ) District Two Director (NY, VT, CT), Co-Chairperson of the NAWJ Women in Prison Committee and Chairperson Emeritus of the New York Chapter's Women in Prison Committee. Justice Williams has organized, facilitated, and participated in numerous workshops for incarcerated persons addressing topics such as Parole Issues, Non Traditional Jobs for Women and Housing, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions, Re-Entry and other motivational topics at correctional facilities for women throughout New York State, including Bayview, Taconic, Beacon, and Albion Correctional Facilities. Justice Williams played an instrumental role in opening the Kings County Criminal Court Career and Education Center on September 25, 2009, and the Brooklyn Youth General Equivalency Diploma Program on March 1, 2010, where more than 20 students have received their General Equivalency Diploma.

Academic Background: Justice Williams is a graduate of New York Law School, where she was the first woman to receive the Abraham Markoff Scholarship Award from the New York State Bar Association, Worker's Compensation Division. Justice Williams is also a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina and Columbia University, New York, New York (Masters in Social Work). She is the proud mother of one son, Dennis Lorenzo; three granddaughters, Tiffany, Destin and Chaz and one great granddaughter, Candence Amiya.

NAWJ 36th Annual Conference
Protecting and Advancing Meaningful Access to Justice
October 15-19, 2014 • San Diego, CA
The Westin Gaslamp Quarter

Hon. Tamila E. Ipema • Hon. Margie G. Woods

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court
Janet Napolitano, President, University of California
Professor Anita F. Hill, Brandeis University
Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Harvard Law School

Register online here, or download and fax this registration form.
Conference registration fees:
$595 for NAWJ Members
$525 for Members who are First-Time Attendees
$695 for Non-Members Attendees
$575 Guest Rate (spouse and children of attendees)

Room Reservations: Click here or call (619) 239-2200.

For more information contact:
Conference Chairs: Judge Tamila E. Ipema by email
Judge Margie G. Woods by email
Conference Manager: Mary Kathleen Todd by email

California's Women in Prison Committee
invites your participation in a book drive for the
California Institution for Women
(Click here to view the Amazon Wishlist.)

NAWJ invites you to support the Women in Prison Committee’s book drive created in conjunction with the 2014 Annual Conference. The drive will benefit the library of the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. CIW needs 50 copies of each title Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby; Bad Childhood-Good Life, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger; and Raw & Naked, But Good, by Moesha McCaffe. The book drive will continue through the end of the year to give every NAWJ member a chance to participate.

Click here and take a moment to buy a book and support this drive. The Warden and Public Information would like to thank NAWJ for its support thus far. Its first book reading was a success, and there is a waiting list of women wanting to sign up for the book club. Let us know if you have purchased a book to be sent to CIW, and we will recognize you on the San Diego Annual Conference web page.

Florida International University School of Law Host
Informed Voters/Fair Judges Project Symposium

On October 2, 2014, Florida International University School of Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta hosted an Informed Voters/Fair Judges Project symposium including NAWJ President Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby joined by Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente; Attorney Raoul Cantero, Partner with White & Case LLP; Florida Circuit Court Judge Lisa Walsh, who is also NAWJ Vice President of Districts; and Attorney Linda Leali, Co-Chair of Florida's Informed Voters Project State Coordinating Committee. The program featured a discussion with the Dean about the effect of special interest ads on the maintenance of a fair and impartial judiciary. The event was covered by local radio station WLRN and was attended by law students, faculty and members of the public.

Judges: Play Fair
An Informed Voters Lesson Plan for Students

"Judges: Play Fair" is a new mini lesson that examines the role of fair and impartial courts in American life. Students learn about how judges are selected and held accountable. It also shows that judges focus on the facts in order to keep things fair. "Judges: Play Fair" is a great outreach program for students in your area. Consider presenting the program this year. Resources may be found at

NAWJ Finance Chair Judge Tanya R. Kennedy
Honored by Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
for Achievements in the Public Interest

The Honorable Tanya R. Kennedy, Judge on the New York State Supreme Court, has been nominated to receive an award from New York's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at its Annual Alumni Awards Dinner in the Pierre Hotel on January 23, 2015. The School of Law will honor three individuals in law, public interest and business. Judge Kennedy's award will recognize her work in the public interest.

U.S. Senators Join Yale Law's Liman Program, NAWJ Women in Prison
Committee to Hold BOP Accountable on Promises to
Accommodate Women at Danbury

On September 3, 2014, eleven U.S. Senators wrote to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director, Charles E. Samuels, Jr., raising concerns about BOP's plan to change the use of the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Danbury, Connecticut from a women-only facility to a facility devoted primarily to men. On November 6, 2013, Director Samuels called the Women in Prison Committee and informed NAWJ that there would continue to be a 200-bed secured facility at Danbury with all existing services and program; a new 50-bed facility in Brooklyn, New York; and a committee of wardens to advise on best practices for treating women.

The letter follows the Senators' press release, and may be read here.

Questions are surfacing due to the lack of progress in keeping federal space in the northeast. In 2012, while following the conditions of women in prison, NAWJ's Women in Prison Committee learned of BOP's request for operating funds to create a new large women's prison in Aliceville, Alabama. The proposed isolated location would make family visits difficult for inmates outside of the region.

"Dislocation and Relocation: Women in the Federal Prison System and Repurposing FCI Danbury for Men," a report by Yale Law School Professor Judith Resnik and the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program details the important role that the Danbury facility plays in serving incarcerated women (and their families) who reside in the Northeast, and the benefits of services that promote successful re-entry back to their communities.

NAWJ's Women in Prison Committee is following-up the letter to BOP Director Samuels by making the case to more members of Congress, BOP administrators who oversee women offenders, and the Deputy Attorney General's Office.

NAWJ Nominating Committee
Announces Slate for NAWJ Officer Positions for 2014-2015

In accordance with the NAWJ Bylaws, the Nominating Committee presents the following Nomination Slate
for the 2014-2015 Board of Directors:

(Automatically assumes office)
Hon. Julie E. Frantz
Multnomah County Circuit Court
Portland, Oregon

Hon. Lisa S. Walsh
Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit
Miami, Florida

Vice President, Districts
Hon. Ann Breen-Greco
Illinois State Board of Education
Chicago, Illinois

Vice President, Publications
Hon. Diana Becton
Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County
Martinez, California

Hon. Ariane Vuono
Massachusetts Appeals Court
Boston, Massachusetts

Hon. Beverly Cutler
Third Judicial District
Palmer, Alaska

ABA Delegate
Hon. Stephanie Domitrovitch
Sixth Judicial District
Erie, Pennsylvania

Judge Joan Churchill, United States Immigration Court for Arlington, Virginia (Retired), 5612 Western Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. Tel: (301) 656-8629

Justice Carol Beier, Kansas Supreme Court
Judge Marjorie Carter, Superior Court of California, Orange County (Retired)
Judge Bernice Donald, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Judge Carol Feinman, New York City Civil Court, Kings County
Judge Katherine Hansen, 36th District Court, Michigan
Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Louisiana Supreme Court
Judge Gladys Kessler, United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Judge Brenda Loftin, St. Louis County Circuit Court, Missouri (Retired)
Presiding Justice Judith McConnell, Court of Appeal, California
Chief Judge Amy Nechtem, Massachusetts Juvenile Court
Judge Vanessa Ruiz, District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Judge Norma Shapiro, United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Judge Bea Ann Smith, Texas Court of Appeals (Retired)

Calendar of Programs and Events

NAWJ's 36th Annual Conference will take place October 15-19, 2014 at Westin Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, California.


NAWJ will hold its 2015 Midyear Meeting and Leadership Conference from April 23-24, 2015 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

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.

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