WASHINGTON, March 23, 2022 — Judge Ernestine Gray (retired) was honored by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law with its Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change during a special ceremony on March 21 at the Louisiana Supreme Court. Gray devoted her career to serving children, youth and families and has fundamentally reshaped the children’s law field within her own courtroom and beyond.
The award is named for the longtime director of child welfare at the Center on Children and the Law in honor of his history as an early innovator in that field. The award is given to an attorney, law professor, judge or legislator who has shown achievement and commitment to legal scholarship and systems change, such as authoring child welfare legislation, leading a child welfare agency through major system change or having a key role in litigation that resulted in major system change.
Gray served on the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court for 35 years. She is past president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and has served on the boards of directors for National CASA, the local YWCA and Volunteers of America. Gray currently serves as the judicial fellow of the Pelican Center for Children and Families in Zachary, Louisiana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal representation for children and providing interdisciplinary training and education to child welfare practitioners.
Actively engaged in the ABA for decades, Gray has served as the chair of the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk for the last three years. In addition, she has shepherded policy resolutions, including on Rights to Family Integrity and Family Connection, Engagement in Youth Legal System Reform and Presumption of Presence in Court Policy, to passage before the ABA House of Delegates with resounding support.
The ABA Center on Children and the Law advances access to justice for children and families and improves children’s lives through advances in law, justice, knowledge, practice and public policy by focusing on child abuse and neglect, legal representation, child welfare and protective services system enhancement, family preservation, adolescent health and other child protective legal issues.
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.