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July 29, 2021

Retired federal judge Irma Gonzalez to receive 2021 ABA Margaret Brent Award

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 – Irma Gonzalez, a retired United States District judge, is a recipient of the American Bar Association’s 2021 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

Gonzalez will receive the award, given annually by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, at a virtual ceremony at 4 p.m. CDT Thursday, Aug. 5 during the 2021 ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting

In addition to Gonzalez, the 2021 award recipients include Joan Haratani, Joyce Hughes, Pamela Karlan and Ellen Rosenblum.

“These five distinguished women are role models for all women in the legal profession. We honor their achievements and look forward to celebrating with them at the virtual 2021 Margaret Brent Awards ceremony,” said Maureen Mulligan, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

Gonzalez currently works as a mediator with JAMS (formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services), where she handles mediations and arbitrations.

Gonzalez was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in 1992, becoming the first Latina of Mexican heritage to be appointed to the federal bench. She served as chief judge of the District Court from January 2005 to January 2012. Gonzalez also served as a judge on the Superior Court in San Diego County (1991-1992) and as a magistrate judge for the Southern District of California (1984-1990). She retired from the federal bench in October 2013.

From 1973 to 1975, Gonzalez was a law clerk to United States District Judge William C. Frey in Tucson, Arizona. She also served as an assistant United States attorney in the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s office in the District of Arizona and the Central District of California (1975-1981). Gonzalez was an associate attorney at the former law firm of Seltzer Caplan Wilkins and McMahon (1981-1984).

While a district judge, Gonzalez served as a member of two Judicial Conference committees – the committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judge System and the committee on Judicial Security. She served as chair of the Federal Judicial Center’s Benchbook committee (2009-2013), president of the 9th Circuit District Judges Association (2009-2011) and chaired the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference in 2010. In 2011, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Gonzalez to the Supreme Court Fellows Program Commission, where she served as chair (2012-2013). Gonzalez also was co-chair of the Federal Practice Task Force of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation (2011-2013).

Gonzalez is a founding member of Latinas in the Law and is a member of the Lawyers Club Advisory Board, a master of the Enright Inn of Court, a member of the Federal Bar Association’s Advisory Board and a member of the Judicial Advisory Board of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.

In 2008, Gonzalez was named Outstanding Jurist by the San Diego County Bar Association. In 2011, she received the Joan Dempsey Klein Award for distinguished Jurist by the California Women Lawyers and in 2013 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic National Bar Association. In 2015 the University of Arizona James E. Rogers School of Law awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award. She was inducted into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017, and in 2021 she received the Lawyer’s Club Excellence in Diversity Award.

Gonzalez graduated from Stanford University in 1970 and received her law degree from the University of Arizona School of Law in 1973.

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 other women in the profession. 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.

Click here for a photo of Gonzalez.

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.