Justice Barbara Madsen accepts Woman of the Year Award

(March 30, 2010) Judges, lawyers, alumni and students turned out in force to honor Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen as Seattle University School of Law's 2010 Woman of the Year. The law school and the Women's Law Caucus presented the award at a special luncheon March 25.

Annette Clark, interim dean, said Justice Madsen is devoted to equal justice, promoting diversity and advocating for women and families. She lives out the law school's mission to educate outstanding lawyers to be leaders for a more just and humane world.

"For her, leadership is a calling, not an ambition. She leads with directness, with integrity, with grace, and with humility," Dean Clark said. "She leads not to achieve for herself but to serve others. Justice Madsen, you are the embodiment of leading for a more just and humane world, in working to enhance human flourishing."

Justice Barbara Madsen with co-presidents of the Women's Law Caucus Monica King, left, and Michelle Hankins. Photos by Matt Hagen.

Justice Madsen accepted the award to a standing ovation from the audience, which included her husband and three of her four children, including her daughter Hillary, a '08 graduate of Seattle University School of Law.

Madsen became chief justice in November 2009. She was the third woman elected to the court in 1992, and she was re-elected in 1998 and 2004. After earning her JD from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1977, she worked as a public defender in King and Snohomish counties. In 1982, she joined the Seattle City Attorney's Office and was appointed special prosecutor in 1984. Mayor Charles Royer appointed Justice Madsen in 1988 to the Seattle Municipal Court bench.

Justice Madsen's commitment to equal justice and diversity began when she served as the special prosecutor. She developed the child abuse component of the Family Violence Project. Later, while serving as a municipal court judge, she began working toward the development of a Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee to comprehensively address violence in the family. As the Presiding Judge, Justice Madsen increased opportunities for women and attorneys of color to receive appointments as pro tem judges. She encouraged and increased diversity among the court employee population. Justice Madsen's commitment to equal justice continues today in her role as the chair of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission.

Madsen was touched by and grateful for the award, saying that while women have made great strides - even running for president - they still lag behind in salaries and positions of authority. But when women see others running for president, serving as governor or on the Supreme Court, she said, "they see hope and opportunity."

She said the work of the court and the establishment of commissions to explore gender, diversity and equal justice make her very proud and demonstrate the values she upholds.

"Diversity matters," she said. "Every voice has value, and justice belongs to all of us."

Madsen praised Seattle University School of Law, calling its outreach to the community, level of activity and work for justice "unprecedented."

"The law school is just alive, and we are so much better for it," Madsen said. "I look forward to hearing the voices of the students in this room."

Madsen and Clark

Chief Justice Madsen and Interim Dean Annette Clark

Justice Madsen shared a previous law school Woman of the Year Award with other women justices in 2003, and she has received numerous other honors. In 1993, she was the first recipient of the annual Myra Bradwell Award, honoring an outstanding alumna of Gonzaga University School of Law who has made great strides on behalf of women. In 1998, the Thurston County Women's Symposium honored her as a Very Important Woman. She received the Washington Women Lawyers Vanguard Award in 1998 and 2002 for her leadership and inspiration for women in the legal profession. Justice Madsen was honored with a Department of the Army Certificate of Achievement in 1999, Washington Women Lawyers Foundation Award in 2001, National Association of Women Judges Special President's Award in 2002, Equal Justice Coalition Judicial Award in 2004, the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association Certificate of Appreciation for Contribution to Legal Education in 2004, an award from the Washington State Bar Association for her leadership and work on behalf of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission in 2004, and an Access to Justice Award of Distinction for Public Service in 2006.

Justice Madsen also chairs the Supreme Court Personnel Committee, co-chairs the court's Internal Rules Committee, serves on the Budget Committee, the Administrative Committee, and the Washington Court Reports Commission. Justice Madsen is a member of Washington Women Lawyers and the National Association of Women Judges.

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