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July 28, 2023

Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Sabrina S. McKenna to receive 2023 ABA Margaret Brent Award

CHICAGO, July 28, 2023 — Hon. Sabrina Shizue McKenna, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii, is a recipient of the 2023 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

McKenna will receive the award, given annually by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, at a ceremony and reception at 3-5:30 p.m. MDT on Sunday, August 6, at the Hyatt Regency Denver during the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting.

In addition to McKenna, the 2023 award recipients include Melissa Murray, Yvette Ostolaza, Deborah Willig and 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.

McKenna was appointed Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court in early 2011, the first openly LGBTQ+ Asian American to serve on a state court of last resort. Prior to her appointment, she served as a Hawaii state limited-jurisdiction court judge in 1993 and then a general-jurisdiction court judge in 1995. As a trial judge, she presided over civil, criminal and family cases and served as presiding judge of Oahu’s family court from 2009-11.

Before becoming a judge, McKenna was an associate at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel in Honolulu, corporate secretary and general counsel for Otaka, Inc. (Japan-based international business organization), an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law and an instructor in business law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Shidler College of Business.

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. 

McKenna is a faculty member of the National Judicial College, an honorary adjunct faculty member of the Jindal Global Law School in Delhi, India, serves on the Judicial Advisory Board of the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School’s Law & Economics Center Judicial Education Program and frequently speaks on a variety of issues, including women’s rights and empowerment.

McKenna’s honors include the ABA Stonewall Award (2021), recognition as an Eminent Jurist by the Jindal Global Law School (2020) and by the Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation as a Global Women in Law & Leadership Honoree (2017), the National Asian American Bar Association’s Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award (2015), the Hawai’i Friends for Civil Rights Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Friends Award (2011), the University of Hawaii Distinguished Alumnus Award (2009) and the Hawaii Women Lawyers Outstanding Judicial Achievement Award (2007).

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 Hon. Sabrina S. McKenna.

The 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.

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.