Honoring the Legacy of Civil Rights Pioneer Constance Baker Motley

Federal and State Judges to Commemorate Women’s History Month
by Honoring Motley’s Historic Legacy

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 – In-Person and Live-Streamed

To commemorate Women’s History Month, the National Association of Women Judges – New York Chapter has teamed up with the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission of the New York State Courts and the New York City Bar Association to host a program celebrating the life of Constance Baker Motley. The program will take place in-person at the City Bar and be live-streamed on March 29, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Register here

“The Civil Rights Queen – Why All Women Owe Her a Debt of Gratitude,” will honor the pioneering career of Judge Constance Baker Motley and highlight the success of women on the bench, in the courts and in the legal profession due to her legacy.

Hon. Cheryl Chambers, Associate Justice, Appellate Division Second Department, will moderate a panel to include Hon. Analisa Torres, United States District Judge of the Southern District of New York; Hon. Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Retired, New York State Court of Appeals, and Of Counsel, Greenberg Traurig LLP; and Riad Williams, Assistant Deputy Chief Appellate Court Attorney, Appellate Division, Second Department, and Former Law Clerk of Judge Motley.

Also delivering remarks will be Hon. Shirley Troutman, Associate Judge, NYS Court of Appeals; Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Retired Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, First Department, and Senior Counsel, Alston & Bird; Hon. Marcia Hirsch, President, National Association of Women Judges – NY Chapter; Hon. Troy K. Webber, Co-Chair, Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission; and Susan J. Kohlmann, President, New York City Bar Association.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James will deliver video remarks.

Constance Baker Motley was the first African-American woman to hold many prestigious positions, breaking down barriers for generations to come. She was the first African-American woman to argue before the Supreme Court; to be appointed to the federal judiciary, serving as a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York; to serve in the New York State Senate; and to be elected Manhattan Borough President.

Hon. Shirley Troutman said, “Constance Baker Motley paved the way for women in the twentieth century due to her work both inside and outside of the courtroom, to achieve that which many viewed as impossible. She did so by using her legal acumen as a trial attorney to break down barriers to equality for all and then shattered the glass ceiling of the federal judiciary.  Moreover, long before the National Organization of Women’s birth in 1966 she served as an exemplar of how to successfully navigate a work-life balance.”

Hon. Marsha Hirsch said, “Constance Baker Motley, as key strategist of the Civil Rights movement, is an inspiration to all of us who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law. As an African-American woman, an attorney, a politician and a federal judge, the life and legacy of Constance Baker Motley prove that commitment, intelligence, courage, perseverance, passion and hard work can truly change the world.” 

Hon. Troy K. Webber said, “Judge Baker Motley stated, ‘I reject the notion that my race or sex would bar my success in life.’ This rejection led to her graduating from Columbia Law School, her writing the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education as well as her being the first Black woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. This rejection has led to Black women such as myself achieving the positions in life we have achieved.”

Susan J. Kohlmann said, “While Constance Baker Motley’s modesty would likely make her recoil at being called ‘The Civil Rights Queen,’ the sobriquet is not in the least hyperbolic. She was right there, side by side with Dr. King, with Thurgood Marshall, with Medgar Evers, with James Meredith and with the Freedom Riders, at key moments in our history that moved us all forward in the quest for justice.”

The program will take place in-person at the New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on March 29. The event will also be live-streamed. Register here

About the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) – New York Chapter
The National Association of Women Judges’ (NAWJ) mission is to promote the judicial role of protecting the rights of individuals under the rule of law through strong, committed, diverse judicial leadership; fairness and equality in the courts; and equal access to justice. Formed in 1979, the NAWJ has inspired and led the American Judiciary in achieving fairness and equality for vulnerable populations. The President of the National Association of Women Judges-New York Chapter is Hon. Marcia Hirsch, Court of Claims Judge, Acting Supreme Court Justice. The Women’s History Month Committee Chairperson is the Hon. Shirley Troutman, Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals.

About the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission
The Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission is an independent commission that works to educate and advise decision makers in the New York Court System on issues affecting both employees and litigants of color, and implements recommendations developed to address said issues. The Commission, which is co-chaired by Associate Justice Troy K. Webber (Appellate Division, First Department) and Acting Justice Richard Rivera (Supreme Court, Albany County and Supervising Judge of the Family Court, Third Judicial District), develops programs to improve the perception of fairness within the court system and to ensure equal justice in New York State.

About the New York City Bar Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has over 23,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.