Women in the Law

Margaret Brent

Image of Margaret Brent courtesy of Maryland State Archives

Despite the distance between them, an appellate judge from Washington, D.C., and four attorneys from around the country will come together virtually Thursday to receive the 2020 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards.

The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession established the annual awards in 1991 to celebrate female lawyers for their professional accomplishments and support of other women in the legal profession.

The awards are given in honor of Margaret Brent, recognized as the first female lawyer in North America, who arrived in the colonies in 1638. According to an ABA press release, she was involved in 124 court cases in more than eight years and won every one. She also demanded a vote and a voice in the Maryland Assembly, but was denied by the governor.

“We applaud the achievements of this amazing group of women, knowing they’ll inspire all of us in the legal profession and the next generation of women lawyers,” Stephanie Scharf, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, said in the release.

The award ceremony luncheon was originally scheduled for Aug. 2 during the ABA Annual Meeting. The virtual event will feature videos highlighting the honorees’ lives and careers as well as their acceptance speeches. More information can be found on the Margaret Brent Awards website.

Meet the Honorees
Ruthe Catolico Ashley

Ruthe Catolico Ashley

Sacramento, California

Ashley is the executive director emeritus at California LAW, an organization that aims to diversify California’s legal profession by creating a pipeline of students from high schools, community colleges, undergraduate institutions and law schools into law or law-related careers. She previously served as the president and CEO of California ALL, another organization seeking to diversify the legal profession through the educational pipeline.

In 2014, she became the first Filipina and second Asian Pacific American woman elected to the ABA Board of Governors. She is a former chair of the State Bar of California Diversity Pipeline Task Force and helped create its Council on Access and Fairness. She graduated from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law when she was 41, after a successful career in nursing.

Anna Blackburne-Rigsby

Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby

Washington, D.C.

Blackburne-Rigsby was sworn in as chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in March 2017 and chairs the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration in the District of Columbia. She was nominated to serve as an associate judge on the appellate court in 2006 and previously served for more than a decade as an associate judge and magistrate judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court.

She is a member of the Conference of Chief Justices and served on its board of directors. She also co-chairs its Committee on Public Engagement, Trust and Confidence. She is a past president of the National Association of Women Judges and former chair of the International Association of Women Judges’ Board of Managerial Trustees. She graduated from the Howard University School of Law.

Deborah Epstein

Deborah Epstein

Washington, D.C.

Epstein is a law professor and co-director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic. She joined the faculty as a visiting professor in 1993 and has since spent decades representing hundreds of women in civil protection order cases and training students to advocate for the rights of survivors of domestic violence.

She co-chaired the District of Columbia Superior Court’s design and implementation of its Domestic Violence Division, a model effort to integrate civil and criminal cases involving intimate abuse. She also served as co-director of the court’s Domestic Violence Intake Center. She served as chair of Washington, D.C.’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board and as a member of the NFL Players Association Commission on Violence Prevention. She graduated from the New York University School of Law.

Wendi Lazar

Wendi Lazar

New York

Lazar is a partner and employment lawyer in the New York office of Outten & Golden. She co-heads her firm’s Individual Practice and Executives and Professionals Practice Group and focuses on executive agreements, including retention, expatriate and non-competition arrangements. She also represents executives, founders and partners as they transition during sales, mergers and acquisitions and other transactions.

She served on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and chaired its Sexual Harassment and Gender-based Bullying Committee. She served as editor-in-chief of Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession, a manual published in 2018. She is also a former employee co-chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section’s International Labor and Employment Law Committee. She graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Regina T. Montoya

Regina Montoya

Dallas

Montoya is the CEO and chairperson of Regina T. Montoya, where she focuses on health law. She previously served as senior vice president, external relations and general counsel at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and as CEO of New America Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes the economic development of the American Latino community. She was also the assistant to the president and director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the White House and a U.S. representative to the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

She is a past vice chair of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s board of directors and past chair of the Dallas mayor’s task force on poverty. She is also a past chair of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund board of directors. She graduated from Harvard Law School.