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March 25, 2020

American Bar Association announces 2020 Margaret Brent award recipients

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2020 — The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession has chosen five women lawyers to receive its 2020 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. The award ceremony luncheon will take place on Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Swissotel Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting. 

The honorees are:

Ruthe Catolico Ashley, executive director emeritus at California LAW, a nonprofit that has established a pipeline of diverse students from high schools, community colleges, four-year institutions and law schools into law or law-related careers. As former chair of the California Law Academy Support Council, she has dedicated the past decade to diversity in the legal profession. Ashley was elected to the ABA Board of Governors in 2014 and is the first Filipina and second Asian Pacific American woman on the ABA board in its 138-year history. Ashley is a graduate of Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. She chairs the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration in the District of Columbia and is a member of the Conference of Chief Justices and serves on its board of directors. Blackburne-Rigsby also chairs the Committee on Public Engagement, Trust and Confidence of the Conference of Chief Justices. She graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law, graduating in the top five percent of her class.

Deborah Epstein, law professor and co-director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic. Epstein has spent more than 30 years advocating for the rights of survivors of domestic violence and has represented hundreds of women in civil protection order cases. She co-chaired the D.C. Superior Court’s effort to design and implement its Domestic Violence Unit, an effort to integrate civil and criminal cases involving intimate abuse. She was an early chair of the D.C. Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board and was a founding co-director of the court’s Domestic Violence Intake Center. Epstein graduated from New York University School of Law.

Wendi Lazar, partner at Outten & Golden LLP in New York, where she co-heads the firm’s Individual Practice and the Executives and Professionals Practice Group. Lazar practices in many areas of employment law with a focus on executive agreements, including retention, expatriate, non-competition, talent, severance, and compensation arrangements. She also represents teams of executives, founders and partners transitioning during a sale, merger and acquisitions and other corporate transactions. Lazar graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College and received her J.D. cum laude from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Regina Montoya, CEO and chairperson of Regina T. Montoya, PLLC in Dallas, Texas, focusing on health law. Montoya is currently writing a book about the importance of incorporating Latinos into the economic, political and social fabric of America, and she is a frequent public speaker on a wide range of issues including health care, poverty, diversity and children. Montoya was vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and chair of the Dallas Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty. Montoya earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.  

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. In 1648, she formally demanded a vote and voice in the Maryland Assembly, which the governor denied. 

Previous winners range from small-firm practitioners in Alabama and Alaska to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in opening doors for other women lawyers.

Stephanie Scharf, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, said of this year’s Brent winners: “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.”

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers 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. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews