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Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson of Louisiana to receive
the 2010 ABA Spirit of Excellence Award for Diversity Leadership
CHICAGO, Nov. 10, 2009 – The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession will honor Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson of the Louisiana Supreme Court with a Spirit of Excellence Award, recognizing her unwavering commitment to enhancing diversity in the legal profession.
“Justice Johnson epitomizes community service. She has been committed to helping the disadvantaged from her early days as a community organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Even as a justice for the highest court in Louisiana, Justice Johnson maintains her commitment to communities in need,” said Fred Alvarez of Palo Alto, Calif., chair of the commission. “She has been a champion for increasing diversity in the profession since the beginning of her career. Her courage and determination serve as inspiration for others—and not just women and minorities. She inspires all of us who are committed to a more diverse profession.”
The commission will present the award to Johnson Feb. 6 during the 2010 ABA Midyear Meeting in Orlando, Fla.
As an African-American woman from a working class family, Johnson has overcome substantial barriers throughout her career. She navigated the then-segregated school system of New Orleans, graduating as her high school’s valedictorian. Johnson attended Spelman College on a full academic scholarship before attending law school at Louisiana State University. She was one of only two African-American students in her first year class at LSU. Post-graduation, she became a managing lawyer with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, where she delivered legal services to more than 3,000 clients from socio economically deprived communities. Johnson has been a role model and a trailblazer in other ways, serving as the first elected female of the Louisiana Civil District Court, and subsequently as the first African-American woman elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Throughout her career, Johnson has touched the lives of many law students and professionals of color. Her commitment to ensuring diversity in the legal profession was made early on when, as a newly elected judge, Johnson resolved to hire law clerks from diverse backgrounds. Her commitment to diversity remains evident through her work as co-chair of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Task Force on Diversity in the Profession, where she focused on ensuring retention of diverse lawyers.
Johnson has been the recipient of countless awards, including the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, the Distinguished Jurist Award of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the National Nobel Woman Award of the Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women and the Medal of Honor of the city of New Orleans.
The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is a catalyst to change the legal profession to reflect the society it serves. It helps racially and ethnically diverse lawyers advance their careers and standing in the profession. Its leadership, programs and information help the profession understand and eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. The commission works to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession, and thus enrich it.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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