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December 30, 2020

California Labor Secretary Julie Su to receive ABA Margaret Brent Award

CHICAGO, Aug. 6, 2019 – Julie Su, a daughter of Chinese immigrants who became a nationally recognized expert on workers’ rights and civil rights, is a recipient of the American Bar Association’s 2019 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

Su will receive the award, given annually by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, at noon on Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco during the ABA Annual Meeting. In addition to Su, the 2019 award recipients include UC-Davis law professor Raquel Aldana; Michelle Banks, senior adviser at BarkerGilmore; Kelly M. Dermody, managing partner at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein and San Diego Judge Judith McConnell.

“These distinguished women have been trailblazers throughout their careers, and they are role models for all women in the legal profession,” said Stephanie Scharf, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, of this year’s Brent honorees. “The Commission is thrilled to honor and celebrate their outstanding achievements at the 2019 Margaret Brent Awards luncheon.”

Su, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, was appointed Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency by newly-elected Gov. Gavin Newson in 2019, advising him on labor issues and employment programs for workers and businesses throughout California. The appointment followed her previous role as California Labor Commissioner, where she enforced the state’s labor laws to ensure a fair and just workplace for both employees and employers. Prior to that, she was litigation director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California.

In 1995, Su was among the lead counsel in a federal lawsuit to hold brand name garment manufacturers and retailers liable for using slave labor to manufacture their clothing. She also earned the workers legal immigration status, by successfully arguing that federal statutes originally written to protect narcotics informants also apply to undocumented workers who expose the criminal behavior of their employers.

In 2001, Su won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her innovative work as a workers’ rights and civil rights advocate. Her numerous awards also include: Reebok International Human Rights Award (1996); being named one of four “Pioneers in Women’s History” in an official proclamation by former President Bill Clinton (1997); National Asian-Pacific-American Bar Association’s “Best Under 40” award (2003); “Southern California Super Lawyer” (2004-2009); The Daily Journal list of “Top 75 Women Litigators” in California (2005); and the Gruber Foundation International Women’s Rights Prize (2006).

The ABA Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established in 1991, honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others. The award is named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.  Brent arrived in the colonies in 1638, and was involved in 124 court cases in more than eight years, winning every case.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations 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. To review our privacy statement click here. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews