May 2012 • Vol. 32 No. 5 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Judge Audrey B. Collins to Receive Outstanding Jurist Award on May 11

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti will be among the luncheon speakers.

Make your luncheon reservation now.

The Honorable Audrey B. Collins, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, has been selected as the recipient of LACBA’s 2012 Outstanding Jurist Award. Judge Collins is being recognized for her exemplary service as chief judge of the largest federal trial court in the nation, her commitment to the Los Angeles community, her advocacy for victims’ rights, and her role as a pioneer in the legal profession and on the bench by being the first woman of color appointed to several prominent positions.

The Outstanding Jurist Award will be presented to Judge Collins on Friday, May 11 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. 

“I am honored to be included in the same company as the prior recipients of this award. They are all legal luminaries. Many have also been my mentors and friends,” said Judge Collins. “The only way in which I can express my thanks is to accept the Outstanding Jurist Award on behalf of all of my colleagues on the bench—all of whom are working very hard under extremely difficult circumstances to maintain access to justice for those we serve.”

“Judge Collins was selected as LACBA’s 2012 Outstanding Jurist because she exemplifies the key characteristics—civility, integrity, and compassion—to which the courts and the legal profession aspire,” said LACBA President Eric A. Webber. “Her ability to incorporate these characteristics into her judgments, combined with her personal commitment to a humane court process, have not only made her a widely admired member of the federal judiciary but have improved the quality of justice in Los Angeles and beyond.”

Speakers at the event will include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Gil Garcetti, former District Attorney of Los Angeles County; the Honorable Christina A. Snyder, U.S. District Court, Central District of California; Evan A. Jenness, Law Offices of Evan A. Jenness, and Mary Carter Andrues, Arent Fox LLP.

During the program, the new judges of the U.S. District Court, Central District, and the Los Angeles Superior Court will be introduced. Inductees into the LACBA 50 Year Club will also be recognized for their half-century membership in the Los Angeles County Bar Association: Eric Arthur Ashton Sr., Sheldon S. Baker, Frederick Barak, Janyce K. Blair, Edward Blau, Ralph Cassady, Hillel Chodos, John J. Collins, Robert Louis Finkel, Don B. Finkelstein, David A. Gill, Herman L. Glatt, Eugene R. Grace, Jerry F. Halverson, Philip D. Irwin, Claire D. Johnson, Robert L. Kern, Charles M. Levy, Robert F. Lewis, Philip S. Magaram, Ovvie Miller, Irwin R. Monroe, Richard M. Norman, Berne Rolston, David G. Waller, and Barry R. Weiss.

About Judge Collins. Judge Collins was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by President Bill Clinton in May 1994, and became the third woman and the third African American to serve as chief judge in 2009. Since then, the court has helped establish pro se clinics at its downtown Los Angeles and Riverside courthouses, has implemented the Substance Abuse Treatment and Reentry (STAR) Program, and has been selected to participate in the national Patent Pilot Program.

Judge Collins’ grandfather was a freed slave who put a strong emphasis on education and the community values he passed along to her father, a dentist. Her mother, a teacher, strongly shared these values. Both parents inspired Judge Collins to strive beyond racial and personal barriers, and to realize her ambitions.

It was this family history that motivated her first to serve the community as a high school teacher, then to work with the Model Cities Project, and later to serve as the director of the Norma Topping Student Aid Fund for two years at the University of Southern California, before pursuing a career in the legal profession.

Judge Collins attended UCLA Law School, where she was a member of the UCLA Law Review and Order of the Coif. During her second summer in law school, Judge Collins clerked for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office where she sought to provide a voice for crime victims, particularly women and people of color.

After a brief stint as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation, she joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1987, becoming the first African American woman to serve as head deputy, assistant bureau director, and later as assistant district attorney. She also became the first African American elected as president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.

In 1992, Judge Collins was deputy general counsel on the Webster Commission investigating the LAPD’s response to the April 1992 civil disorder. In 2002-03, she chaired the LACBA Task Force on the State Criminal Justice System, formed to recommend improvements within the criminal justice system following the LAPD Rampart scandal.

Judge Collins has a long history of serving the legal profession. She has served on the LACBA Board of Trustees and as chair of the LACBA Criminal Justice Section. In addition, she has been a member of the LACBA Litigation Section Executive Committee. She served on the State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners and was chair of the State Bar Criminal Law Section. She served on the Board of Governors of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. Judge Collins is currently the vice president of the Ninth Circuit District Judges Association and a member of the Ninth Circuit Wellness Committee. She is a lifetime member of Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, California Women Lawyers, the John M. Langston Bar Association, and the National Bar Association.

Judge Collins was the Langston Bar Association’s Judge of the Year in 2006 and its Lawyer of the Year in 1988. She received the Ernestine Stalhut Award from WLALA in 1999 and a Special Achievement Award from 100 Black Men of Los Angeles in 2009.

Judge Collins holds a bachelor's degree from Howard University (1967), where she was Woman of the Year; a master's degree from American University (1969); and a juris doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles (1977).

About the award and luncheon. Established in 1979, the Outstanding Jurist Award, one of LACBA’s highest awards, is presented annually to a current or past member of the federal or state judiciary in Los Angeles County who has made significant contributions from the bench through judicial ability and experience, temperament and demeanor, knowledge of the law, improvement or education of the legal community and the practice of law and the community at large.

This year's luncheon on May 11 takes place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, with a reception beginning at 11:30 a.m., followed by the luncheon at 12:00 noon. For more information and to register, please click here.

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