Written by National Association of Women Judges|January 04, 2021|News
(December 22, 2020) – Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Bernadette D’Souza has been selected by her peers as the new Chief Judge. D’Souza, who is the first Family Court Judge of Civil Court, 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.
Judge D’Souza received her Juris Doctor degree from Tulane University School of Law in 1992. Upon graduation she dedicated her legal career to public interest law; for more than 18 years, she represented indigent clients in family law, domestic violence, and housing cases, many of them as a Managing Attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. Judge D’Souza was elected as the first Family Court Judge at Orleans Civil Court on February 1, 2012, and re-elected in 2015 and 2020.
Judge D’Souza has spent over a decade promoting awareness to domestic violence issues, educating and supervising students from law schools across the country, and serving as adjunct professor at Tulane Law School. She is an active member of numerous public service and professional legal organizations. In October of 2019, Judge D’Souza was installed as President of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ).
Judge D’Souza is the recipient of several prominent awards for her professional and personal commitment to the community, including the St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church Humanitarian Award, YWCA Role Model Award, Citizen Hero Award for Victims and Citizens Against Crime and the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence into Action Award. In 2018, Judge D’Souza received the City Business Icon Award to mark New Orleans’ 300th Anniversary honoring twenty leaders for their energy, innovative ideas, achievements, and commitment to excellence.
For her outstanding leadership in promoting the vision, core values and mission of NAWJ, Judge D’Souza received the NAWJ Justice Vaino Spencer Leadership Award. She received the Association for Women Attorneys Professionalism Award and the Louisiana State Bar Association Career Public Interest Award. Additionally, she received the Distinguished Jurist Award from the New Orleans Pro Bono Project. Judge D’Souza currently serves as a Mayoral appointee on the Board of Total Community Action
Judge D’Souza has participated in numerous speaking engagements including continuing legal education programs. At the invitation of the U.S. State Department and the INL Office, Judge D’Souza was a Speaker on Domestic Violence at the “Role of Women in Justice” Conference in Yerevan, Armenia. At the United Nations Convention on Status of Women in New York, Judge D’Souza presented on Integrated Domestic Violence Courts. Last year, at the invitation from His Holiness Pope Francis, Judge D’Souza participated in the first Pan-American Judges Summit at the Vatican, where she discussed the importance of equal access to civil legal aid in the elimination of poverty.
Judge D’Souza is the widow of Dr. Terence D’Souza of Ochsner Clinic. They were married for over 41 years and are the proud parents of Lloyd, Vanessa and Christine. They have three grandchildren, Aidan and Dylan DePetrillo and Elliot Gelb.