Yesterday, I had the honor of presenting the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) inaugural Lifetime Liberty Achievement Award.

As part of our longstanding commitment to promoting diversity in the law, Thomson Reuters has sponsored the TIPS Liberty Achievement Award – which recognizes attorneys and judges who are exemplary role models promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession – since its inception in 2008.

This year, TIPS established a new Lifetime Liberty Achievement Award that seeks to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated persistent and enduring leadership over the course of their careers.

The ongoing events in Minneapolis and across the United States over the past few months have shown us that initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, whether in the legal profession or across all aspects of our society, remain as important as ever.

A more diverse and inclusive legal profession can only help us in achieving justice, fairness and transparency in the application of the law, and ultimately, a judicial system that works for everyone.

I was delighted to present the award (virtually, of course) to The Honorable Judge Bernice B. Donald, and there could not have been a more worthy recipient who better embodies the values of the award – she is an inspiration and role model to us all and I am proud to call her my friend.

Judge Donald’s professional resume is seriously impressive. She has served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit since 2011. She previously served on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in 1995. Her other appointments include to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, and an indefinite term on the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

However, Judge Donald has had to break down glass ceilings throughout her career. She was the first African American woman to serve as a judge in the state of Tennessee, the first African American woman in the history of the United States to serve as a bankruptcy judge, and the first African American President of the American Bar Foundation.

She has also been a long-time advocate and champion of civil rights and inclusion. She served as co-chair of the TIPS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, chair of the ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, and chair of the Memphis Diversity Institute.

She is a past president of the National Association of Women Judges, and many of her colleagues and peers from the NAWJ were able to join us for the celebration.

She has previously been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis, the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, the Memphis Bar Foundation Benjamin Hooks Award, the ABA Commission on Women – Margaret Brent Award, and recognition by the ABA’s Women Trailblazer’s Project.

Judge Donald is known throughout the profession as a gracious, humble person, and always willing to spend time with younger colleagues to impart her knowledge, wisdom and experience, and most importantly, help advance their careers.

She is a truly remarkable woman, and I could not have been more pleased to present her with her award.

This guest post was authored by Sharon Sayles Belton, vice president of Partnerships & Alliances for Thomson Reuters.

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