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June 05, 2023

ABA Commission on Women in the Profession announces 2023 Margaret Brent award recipients

CHICAGO, June 5, 2023 — The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession has chosen five female lawyers to receive its 2023 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. The award ceremony and reception will take place from 3-5:30 p.m. MDT on Aug. 6, during the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in Denver.

The honorees are:

Sabrina S. McKenna, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii. Prior to her appointment in 2011, she served as a Hawaii state limited-jurisdiction court judge in 1993 and then a general-jurisdiction court judge in 1995. McKenna served as chair of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts, the Committee on Court Interpreters and Language Access and was co-chair of the Chief Justice’s Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. She is a faculty member of the National Judicial College, an honorary adjunct faculty member of the Jindal Global Law School in Delhi, India, and serves on the Judicial Advisory Board of the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School’s Law & Economics Center Judicial Education Program. McKenna earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a law degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Click here for a photo of Sabrina S. McKenna.

Melissa Murray is the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, where she teaches courses on constitutional law, family law, criminal law and reproductive rights and justice. Prior to joining the NYU Law faculty, Murray was the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received the law school’s Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction, the Association of American Law School’s Derrick A. Bell Award, and, from March 2016 to June 2017, served as interim dean of the law school. Murray earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and a law degree at Yale Law School. Click here for a photo of Melissa Murray.

Yvette Ostolaza is Management Committee chair at Sidley Austin LLP in Dallas, where she also serves on the executive committee. Her practice includes multidistrict litigation, activist defense, class actions, bankruptcy and arbitration. Ostolaza serves on the board of directors of Lionsgate, and she has served on several nonprofit boards, as well as the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas. She was recently honored by the Hispanic National Bar Association with the Mari Carmen Aponte Award, which recognizes a “Latina lawyer who is the first to break a glass ceiling.” She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami and a law degree at the University of Miami School of Law. Click here for a photo of Yvette Ostolaza.

Deborah Willig, founder and managing partner of Willig, Williams & Davidson in Philadelphia, has practiced labor relations and employment law since 1976. She advises and negotiates on behalf of labor unions whose members represent a broad cross section of the labor market, including teachers and public-school employees; public health, social services, library and recreation workers; firefighters; Teamsters; musicians; cafeteria workers and hotel and restaurant employees. Willig has been involved in collective bargaining negotiations between the city of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia and their respective union employees for decades. She also was named the first female chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1992. Willig earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree at Temple University School of Law. Click here for a photo of Deborah Willig.

Jill Wine-Banks is an MSNBC contributor, author, podcast co-host and former prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice. She also served as general counsel of the U.S. Army, was the first solicitor general of Illinois and first female deputy attorney general and executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Bar Association. She also served in executive positions for Motorola and Maytag, Winning Workplaces and Chicago Public Schools. Wine-Banks is the author of “The Watergate Girl,” and is a member of the board of the Better Government Association. She previously served on the boards of the ACLU, the Veterans Art Museum, Executive Service Corps and Roosevelt University, among others. Wine-Banks earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a law degree at Columbia Law School. Click here for a photo of Jill Wine-Banks.

“These five distinguished lawyers are role models for all women in the legal profession. We honor their achievements and look forward to celebrating with them at the 2023 Margaret Brent Awards ceremony,” said Commission member Victoria Alvarez, co-chair of the Margaret Brent Awards committee.

The Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established in 1991, honors outstanding female 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 female lawyer in the United States.

Previous recipients include U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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.