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August 06, 2019

San Diego judge Judith McConnell to receive ABA Margaret Brent Award

CHICAGO, Aug. 6, 2019 – Judge Judith McConnell, presiding justice of the Fourth District, Division 1 of the California Courts of Appeal, is a recipient of the American Bar Association’s 2019 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

McConnell 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 McConnell, 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 California Labor Secretary Julie Su.

“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.”

McConnell was appointed to the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division 1 in 2001, served as administrative presiding justice of the Fourth Appellate District since 2003, and served for 23 years as a trial judge in San Diego.  She is now a member of the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame.

McConnell earned a bachelor’s degree in 1966 from the University of California-Berkeley, where she was awarded Phi Beta Kappa, and a law degree in 1969 from UC-Berkeley School of Law.

In 1970, McConnell was a founding member of the San Diego chapter of the National Organization for Women. She was a founder and first president of the Lawyers Club of San Diego, a feminist bar association which successfully advocated for the ratification by California of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was a founder and served as president of the National Association of Women Judges. She served as a member of the Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts and worked on implementation of the recommendations made.

Justice McConnell chaired the California State Senate Task Force on Family Equity where she was outspoken on the gender bias interactions of daily courtroom life.  She also chaired the Leadership Group for Civic Education and currently chairs the Power of Democracy Steering Committee, established to improve civic education in California and to implement the recommendations of the California Task force on K-12 Civic Learning, which she co-chaired. 

In 2001, McConnell was named Jurist of the Year by the California Judicial Council.  In 1999, she was the first recipient of the Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award presented jointly by the California Judicial Council, the California Judges Association and the State Bar of California. In 2014, she received the Girl Scouts San Diego Cool Women Award for her work mentoring future women leaders. In 2016, she also received the Chief Justice’s Award for Exemplary Service and Leadership for her work in improving civic learning, and in 2018 she received the California Council for Social Studies Civic Action Award.

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