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Prominent Role for Law School Alumnae in NAWJ Annual Conference

The election in 2009 of Hon. Sue Pai Yang ’84 as chair of the International Outreach Committee of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) gave her both a coveted position with the organization as well as a seat on the board of the International Association of Women Judges. Presented with the invaluable opportunity to interact with judges from around the world, Judge Yang, who sits on the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Court, sought ideas for a project that the International Outreach Committee could implement in New Jersey.

NAWJ committee     
Members of the NAWJ 33rd Annual Conference Planning Committee include (l–r): Hon. Rosemary Gambardella ’79, Hon. Sue Pai Yang ’84, Hon. Michelle Hollar-Gregory ’81, Fran Bouchoux ’87, and Hon. Sandra Robinson.

From a friend’s suggestion of a one-day symposium came the decision by the National Association of Women Judges to hold its 33rd Annual Conference in Newark, New Jersey – the first time that the State would host the conference in the 33-year history of the organization. From October 12 – 16, more than 300 American and international judges, practicing attorneys, and legal scholars will participate in the conference, whose theme is “Global Women’s Issues.” Judge Yang is conference chair and Fran Bouchoux ’87, Senior Associate Dean at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, is co-chair.

Attendees will gather at the law school and other venues in the city for presentations and discussions on topics ranging from ensuring economic equality for women in a global society and preventing human trafficking to cross-cultural issues in the courts and effective leadership styles for judges. Keynote speakers are U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. State Department; and Hon. Alice C. Hill, Senior Counselor to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Click here for the full program and here for the photo gallery. The Star-Ledger article on Justice Ginsburg’s keynote address can be found here.

Not surprisingly given the profile of the law school as one of the first to enroll women in large numbers and to have women on the faculty – including Justice Ginsburg from 1963 to 1972, eight members of the conference Planning Committee are graduates of Rutgers School of Law–Newark. Also appropriately, the Rutgers Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the oldest legal journal in the country that focuses exclusively on the field of women’s rights law, will publish the proceedings.

The alumnae Planning Committee members are, in addition to Judge Yang and Dean Bouchoux: Hon. Estela M. De La Cruz ’82, Superior Court, Bergen County; Hon. Rosemary Gambardella ’79, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey; Hon. Michelle Hollar-Gregory ’81, Superior Court, Essex County; Hon. Lourdes Santiago ’81, Superior Court, Hudson County; Hon. Siobhan A. Teare ’84, Superior Court, Essex County; and Lorraine A. Abraham ’74, Partner, Schiffman, Abraham, Kaufman & Ritter, P.C.

In the following, three of our alumnae share their reflections on organizing the conference, their participation in NAWJ, their pride in Newark as the host city, and the educational and cultural programming that will be offered during the four-day conference.

Hon. Sue Pai Yang ’84, New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Court
“I approached Senior Associate Dean Bouchoux about having an international women’s issues symposium at Rutgers. Shortly thereafter, to my surprise, Dean Bouchoux presented me with a complete draft of a symposium proposal.  

“I presented her proposal to then NAWJ President Justice Dana Fabe of the Supreme Court of Alaska at our October 2009 Annual Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. She was impressed and suggested that instead of a one-day symposium, I should chair the four-day 2011 NAWJ Conference in order to reach a wider audience. Our symposium committee agreed to take on that challenge and morphed into a conference planning committee. I invited Dean Bouchoux to join NAWJ as an Amicus Judicii and be conference co-chair. Our committee was brainstorming about a theme when I read that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was starting an initiative on global women’s issues. That inspired us to adopt “Global Women’s Issues” as our conference theme. 

“Many of us on the 15-member Conference Planning Committee have devoted two years of our lives working to ensure the success of this conference. For instance, Dean Bouchoux has recruited many faculty and an army of law students to help with the conference. I recruited my law school classmate, Judge Siobhan Teare, to be on the committee. About half of our committee are Rutgers–Newark Law School grads from various classes who have bonded through working together on this project.

“The more than 300 registrants include federal, state, administrative, and military court judges as well as legal scholars and attorneys. We also expect a record-breaking turnout of international judges from more than 25 countries. This was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of State; Robert M. Kaufman, Esq. and the New York Community Trust; the Sylvia Chin, Esq. Memorial Fund of the Pacific Asian Coalition of New Jersey; and the American Society of International Law.

“To convince our national board to hold the conference in Newark rather than another city in New Jersey, we highlighted the historic importance of Newark as the third oldest city in the New World and the support we would receive from the two law schools in the city – Rutgers and Seton Hall. Our two outstanding law schools agreed to contribute their expertise with program planning and to be the site of some of the programs. By all measures, the conference will be a resounding success due to the support we have received from the courts and the law schools as well as the legal and greater community.”

Fran Bouchoux ’87, Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Services
“It was in September 2009 when representatives of NAWJ-District III approached Rutgers School of Law–Newark to discuss the possibility of developing a symposium on the theme of global women’s issues. Inspired in part by the appointment of the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, the judges conceived of an educational program designed to increase awareness of the challenges to realizing equality for women throughout the globe and memorializing the program in a scholarly journal.

“That seed of an idea grew to a proposal for hosting the 2011 NAWJ in Newark, New Jersey, a city whose history is filled with communities that have overcome adversity and struggled to advance the cause of equal justice for all. The originally conceived one-day symposium, now titled the Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg Symposium on International Human Rights and taking place on October 14 at Rutgers, has been incorporated into multi-day programming designed to deepen our understanding of the challenges to achieving global equality.

“As a friend of NAWJ, I am honored to have worked with a group of creative and energetic judges and attorneys who have devoted countless hours to organizing the conference under the guiding hand of NAWJ and IAWJ leaders and an expert administrative staff from the NAWJ national office. Of course, a conference of this magnitude cannot be accomplished without the assistance of a broad network of volunteers. We are indebted to the generosity of the public and private institutions, as well as the hundreds of individuals, who have donated their time and resources to make this conference possible.”

Hon. Rosemary Gambardella ’79, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey
“I have been involved with the NAWJ as long as I had had the privilege to serve on the Bench – some 25 years. Being a part of this organization has given me the opportunity to meet judges, academics, and lawyers from around the country and the world.

“It is with special pride that the NAWJ’s 33rd Annual Conference will take place in Newark, New Jersey, the city where I grew up. The selection of Newark marks a milestone for this city and an opportunity for we who love the city to show it off to the country and the world. The theme of Global Women’s Issues fits in well with the revitalization of Newark as it reaches out to those who will attend. My thanks to the work of the planning committee – people of vision who could see the concept of the conference at this time in this city. Well done!”