The Liberty Achievement Award, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, was established to recognize attorneys and judges who take leadership roles in promoting diversity in the profession of law. Attorneys or judges who have demonstrated, by choices made in their careers and work done in private and/or public sector positions, that they have actively promoted diversity. This would include their own career, leadership positions or work done to advance diverse attorneys in the profession. Other considerations include significant substantive legal work in areas of diversity as well as community service and/or pro bono work in diversity.
Judge Bernice B. Donald is currently a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She was nominated to that position by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by a vote in the Senate on September 6, 2011. Prior to that, Judge Donald sat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. She was appointed to the district court by President William Jefferson Clinton in December 1995 and sworn into office in January 1996.
Judge Donald was the first African American woman in the history of the United States to serve as a bankruptcy judge and the first African American woman to serve as a judge in the history of the State Tennessee when she served on the General Sessions Criminal Court.
Judge Donald is also a Senior Lecturing Fellow at the Regent University School of Law. According to the Regent University website, Judge “Donald frequently serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College and the Federal Judicial Center (FJC), and she was a member of the FJC’s Board of Directors from 2003 through 2007. In 1996, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist appointed Judge Donald to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, where she served for six years. In 2011, Chief Justice John G. Roberts appointed her to an indefinite term on the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.”
Judge Donald is extremely active in the American, National, Tennessee, and Memphis Bar Associations, as well as in the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association.
Judge Donald also chaired the American Bar Association Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession—now the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession—where she established the Spirit of Excellence Award.
She has chaired the Memphis Diversity Institute and the Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the legal profession. She currently works with Leadership Memphis to provide leadership training for Memphis Housing Authority residents. And in June 2003, Judge Donald co-founded 4-Life, and skills training and enrichment program for students 6 - 15 designed to teach children to become positive productive citizens. She is also a member of the prestigious American Law Institute.
Judge Donald has been the recipient of over 100 awards for professional, civic, and community activities, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis, the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, and the Benjamin Hooks Award presented in 2002 by the Memphis Bar Foundation.