Harvard Law School Professor of Practice Nancy Gertner has been selected as a recipient of the 2014 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established by the ABA Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession.
The award, which recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and inspired other women lawyers, is presented to five recipients each year. This year’s award ceremony will take place at the ABA annual meeting in Boston on Aug.10.
“The Margaret Brent Award is a marvelous tribute to the amazing Nancy Gertner and her outstanding work as a judge, teacher, advocate, mentor and role model,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “Her sparkling insights, breadth of interests, rich experience, and searching intellect giving students and colleagues crucial insights reflecting deep practical knowledge and well-earned wisdom. Harvard Law School is exceptionally fortunate she is here as a vital member of our community and we toast her well-deserved recognition with this significant award.”
Gertner, a former federal judge, was one of very few women trial lawyers in the early 1970s, and built a career as a self-described “revolutionary” and “radical lawyer” fighting for fair sentencing and against discrimination.
In 1994, President Clinton appointed Gertner to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, where she served until September 2011. Prior to her judgeship, she had a 20-year career as an attorney, first at Silverglate & Gertner and later at Dwyer, Collora & Gertner.
Gertner, who has taught sentencing and comparative sentencing institutions as an instructor at Yale Law since 1998, joined the Harvard Law School faculty as a professor of practice in 2011. She teaches a number of subjects at HLS, including criminal law, criminal procedure, forensic science and sentencing.
Described by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of “The Most Influential Lawyers of the Past 25 Years,” Gertner receive the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, in 2008. At that time, she was the second woman in history, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to receive the Thurgood Marshall Award. In 2012, the National Association of Women Lawyers awarded Gertner its highest honor, the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award.
She has served as a panelist, lecturer, and keynote speaker throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia on topics of civil rights, civil liberties, employment, criminal justice and procedural issues. Her autobiography, “In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate,” was published in April 2011.
A graduate of Barnard College and Yale Law School, where she was an editor on The Yale Law Journal, Gertner holds honorary degrees from Colby College, Northeastern University, Suffolk University and Southern New England Law School.
Established by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession in 1991, the award is named in honor of the first woman lawyer in America, Margaret Brent, who arrived in the colonies in 1638. Brent was involved in 124 court cases over eight years and won every one. Over 250 years after Brent demanded a “vote and voice,” Harper’s magazine noted: “By this action, Margaret Brent undoubtedly placed herself as the first woman in America to make a stand for the rights of her sex.”