ABA Diversity Commission Honors Trailblazers for Excellence in Inclusive Leadership

CHICAGO, Nov. 20, 2012 — The _ Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession has selected six lawyers who will receive the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Awards for their significant contributions to advancing diversity in the profession.

“These lawyers embody the ideals of the Spirit of Excellence Award,” said Reginald Turner, chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.  “They have served as role models and mentors to young racially and ethnically diverse lawyers and law students.  They are shining examples for future generations of lawyers.”

Award recipients are:
(click on each name to read more)

  • Javade Chaudhri, executive vice president and general counsel of Sempra Energy in San Diego, is the only South Asian-American general counsel of a Fortune 500 company.   He is chair of the National Asian Pacific _’s In-House Counsel Committee, which is responsible for reaffirming to outside law firms the importance of diversity.
  • Stacy Leeds, dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Ark., is the first Native American woman to be a law school dean.  She is the first and only woman to serve as a justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court.
  • Myles Lynk, the Peter Kiewit Foundation Professor of Law and the Legal Profession at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Tempe, Ariz., is the only African-American faculty member at the law school and only the second in the history of the law school to receive tenure.
  • Jenny Rivera, law professor at the City University of New York School of Law in New York City, is director of the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality, which she founded to promote law reform scholarship, public education and litigation in support of expanded civil rights, with an emphasis on issues affecting the Latino community.
  • Thomas Saenz is president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles, where he started as a staff attorney in 1993.  Known as the Thurgood Marshall of the Latino community, Saenz has garnered praise for his efforts to bring justice to the disenfranchised.
  • Walter Sutton, associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., is responsible for the development and coordination of diversity for Wal-Mart’s legal department.  He was the first African-American to work as a lawyer at both Tenneco Oil Co. and Texas Instruments as well as the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas.

The awards will be presented Feb. 9 at the Hilton Anatole during the 2013 ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.

The mission of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. It serves as a catalyst for change, so that the profession may more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of society, and better serve society. The Commission takes actions to promote the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color, and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the _. The Commission accomplishes these goals through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the Spirit of Excellence Award.

With nearly 400,000 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.

Learn More About:  Midyear Meeting 2013