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Judge Nancy Gertner, Boston, Receives 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award

CHICAGO, March 31, 2008—Judge Nancy Gertner of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts has been selected to receive the 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award of the _ Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, recognizing her contributions to advancing human rights and civil liberties. The award will be presented at the section’s 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner, Aug. 9 at the Hilton New York Hotel.

“As a lawyer, Judge Gertner was a passionate advocate for women’s equality, and tireless in her efforts for civil rights.  She was an accomplished criminal defense lawyer, both for high‑profile defendants and as appointed counsel for the indigent.  As a judge, she has crafted clear and compelling decisions in cases engaging race in public schools, federal fair housing and employment discrimination,” said Robyn S. Shapiro of Milwaukee, section chair.

The section established the award in 1992, presenting the inaugural award to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States to honor his commitment to the cause of civil rights. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties and human rights in the United States.

Gertner took a lead role in litigation establishing that the Massachusetts constitution protects womens’ right to choose, protecting abortion rights in the state even should Roe v. Wade be overruled.  She brought suits challenging termination of Medicaid benefits for abortions of women dependant on public funding for medical care and establishing the obligation of public hospitals to permit their facilities to be used for abortion services.  She won workplace discrimination suits for women in all levels of employment, from those in manufacturing jobs to executives and academics.  She represented the Concerned Black Educators of Boston in formulating remedies in that city’s school desegregation case.

Gertner, only the second woman to receive the Marshall Award, has served on the federal bench since 1994.  She previously practiced law in Boston for 22 years, during which she also taught at Boston University School of Law and was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.  She clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, headquartered in Chicago, immediately after receiving her law degree from Yale Law School and a master’s degree from Yale University, both in 1971.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College.

Other previous recipients include Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States; Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; Stephen B. Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights; civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg; North Carolina lawyer Julius Chambers; and former Congressman Don Edwards.

The Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities focuses on civil rights, civil liberties and the Constitution, and international human rights concerns.  For more information about the award or the dinner, call the section office at 202/662-1030 or visit the section Web site at www.abanet.org/irr.

With more than 413,000 members, the _ is the largest voluntary professional membership organization 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.

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