At the 2017 American Bar Association (ABA) annual meeting in New York City, the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) presented its annual Liberty Achievement Award to Judge Lorna G. Schofield of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The award recognizes lawyers and judges who take a leadership role by demonstrating that they have actively promoted diversity in the legal profession.

Schofield was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed on Dec. 13, 2012, by a unanimous U.S. Senate vote. Upon induction, she became the first Filipino-American Article III judge.

Schofield is a graduate of the New York University School of Law (1981). After law school, she became an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York representing clients in commercial and civil litigation, as well as transactional matters. She later served as an assistant U.S. attorney under New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and investigated and tried criminal cases, including white collar fraud, international arms sales and terrorism from 1984-88. Schofield returned to private practice in 1988, becoming a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in 1991 and litigating complex commercial disputes. She was one of six women partners and the only Asian partner.

Sharon Sayles Belton, vice president of Government Affairs & Community Relations for Thomson Reuters, presented the award and said, “Judge Schofield’s path to the bench has shown desire to succeed, the confidence to seize opportunity and, the fortitude to be “first”.  She praised Judge Schofield’s many accomplishments, her commitment to mentor young people just entering the law, and how – from her vaulted position on the bench – she shines a light on the importance of diversity.

Judge Schofield, in accepting the award, provided a tribute to her mother, an immigrant from the Philippines during the World War II era, who passed away during her college years.

“It would have thrilled her that I was American, that I could do something that served the justice system… that was public-spirited.”

Judge Schofield proceeded to share her views that illustrate how she came to be selected for the honor.  “Diversity on the bench is so important because it sends the message to everyone who participates in our justice system [lawyers, litigants, defendants, jurors]… that all different kinds of people, different in the ways that they are, lead our system of justice so that it can be fair for all.”

The ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, which has over 20,000 members and more than 30 general committees, unites plaintiff, defense, insurance and corporate counsel to advance the civil justice system.

Thomson Reuters has sponsored the TIPS annual Liberty Achievement Award since its inception in 2008.

To see past TIPS Liberty Achievement Award winners, click here.


This post was written by Heather Fox, senior specialist with Thomson Reuters Communications team.

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