The Women in Law Trailblazer Award

History: The Women in Law Trailblazer Award (formerly, The Ernestine Stahlhut Award) was originally created in honor of Ernestine Stahlhut, who was working as a secretary in a law office when she decided to study law. She was admitted to the California Bar in 1933 and entered private practice. In 1942, she became Assistant Secretary to the California State Bar Association in charge of the Los Angeles office, the first woman to hold that position. She was appointed to the Municipal Court by Governor Earl Warren in 1953 and was named Presiding Judge of that Court in 1964. She died in that office. Judge Kathleen Parker and Evelyn Whitlow proposed the Award, which has been bestowed by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles in Judge Stahlhut’s memory since 1965.

Award Criteria: The Women in Law Trailblazer Award is given annually to a woman of the legal profession who has attained the respect, admiration, and affection of the Bench and Bar by her outstanding character, her dedication to service, and her significant contributions to the cause of justice; a person who has challenged women in our profession to excel, and who has served as an inspiration to young women to seek a profession in the law. It recognizes exceptional women lawyers, their achievements, and the trails they have blazed for those women who have followed.


Hon. Mary Lahey
Edna Covert Plummer
Ariel C. Hilton
Hon. Kathleen Parker
Hon. Mildred L. Lillie
Hon. Shirley M. Hufstedler
Hon. Dorothy Nelson
Ruth J. Lavine
Hon. Joan Dempsey Klein
Hon.Vaino Spencer
Hon. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
Hon. Roberta Ralph
Norma Zarky
Betty Bryant
Hon. Rose Elizabeth Bird
Blanche Bersch
Hon. Barbara Jean Johnson
Ruth Church Gupta
Dawn Tilman, 1983
Harriett Buhai, 1984
Patricia D. Phillips, 1985
Hon. Consuelo B. Marshall, 1986
Katharine Krause, 1987
Hon. Madge S. Watai, 1988
Hon. Candace D. Cooper, 1989
Hon. Joyce L. Kennard, 1990
Hon. Sheila James Kuehl, 1991
Hon. Kathleen Brown, 1992
Anne K. Bingaman, 1993

Hon. Margaret M. Morrow, 1994
Hon. Nora M. Manella, 1995
Molly Munger, 1996
Hon. Arleigh Woods, 1997
Hon.  Florence-Marie Cooper, 1998
Hon. Audrey B. Collins, 1999
Andrea Sheridan Ordin, 2000
Abby J. Leibman, 2001
Hon. Judith Chirlin (Ret.), 2002
Professor Myrna Raeder, 2003
Constance Rice, 2004
Nancy Y. Bekavac, 2005
Antonia Hernandez, 2006
Hon. Laurie D. Zelon, 2007
Hon. Lee Smalley Edmon, 2008
Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw, 2009
Edith R. Matthai, 2010
Hon Diane Wayne (Ret.), 2011
Hon. Patricia L. Collins (Ret.), 2012
Jackie Lacey, 2013
Judith Bain, 2014
Tani Cantil-Sakauye, 2015
Hon. Maria Stratton, 2016
Susan Westerberg Prager, 2017
Hon. Beverly Reid O’Connell, 2018
Hon. Holly J. Fujie, 2019                  Hon. Virginia A. Phillips, 2020 Honorable Samantha P. Jessner, 2021
Honorable Elaine Lu, 2022              Honorable Connie R. Quiñones, 2023 

The Advancement of Women Award

History: The Advancement of Women Award (formerly, The Myra Bradwell Award), established in 1993, was originally named for Myra Bradwell (1831-1894), a lawyer and editor who fought for women’s rights throughout her life. When her application for admission to the Illinois State Bar was denied because she was a woman, she sought redress in the courts. Although she lost her bid for admission in a landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (1873), she was eventually admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1890. She was also the founder of the Chicago Legal News, a weekly legal newspaper which became the most important legal publication in the western United States. She worked for reforms in many areas of concern to women, such as giving married women the right to keep their own wages, protecting the rights of widows, and extending suffrage and full legal equality to women.

Award Criteria: The Advancement of Women Award honors an individual or organization that has been exemplary in promoting and advancing women lawyers and issues important to women.


Los Angeles Office of Morrison & Foerster, 1993
Los Angeles Office of Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, 1995
The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California, 1996
Southwestern University School Of Law, 1997
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 1999
USC Law School, 2001
The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, 2002
United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, 2003
California Women Lawyers, 2004
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, 2005
Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2006

Yahoo!, 2007
Deloitte LLP, 2008
Southern California Edison, 2009
Toyota Motor Credit Corporation, 2010
Amgen Inc., 2011
Raytheon Company, 2012
Occidental Petroleum
Corporation, 2013
University of California Office of the General Counsel, 2014
Southern California Gas Company, 2015
Public Counsel, 2016
Patagonia, 2017
CBRE Legal Department, 2018
ACLU of Southern California, 2019
UCLA Health, 2020
Bechtel Corporation, 2021
Loyola Law School, 2022                  St. John’s Community Health, 2023 (The Advancement of Women Award) 

The Distinguished Service Award

History: The Distinguished Service Award was established in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations who have brought honor and esteem to WLALA by their commitment to public service.

Award Criteria: The purpose of this award is to publicly recognize a WLALA member or supporter who has demonstrated such commitment through, among other things, pro bono work, community service, or bar association activities, or by providing legal services to the underrepresented and disadvantaged.


Hon. Mary S. Parker
Betty L. Nordwind
Susan R. Stockel
Mablean Ephriam Paxton
Michael Yamamoto
Rosalyn S. Zakheim
Maria Angeletti
Hon. Diana M. Wheatley
Frances Wender Kandel
Joan Patsy Ostroy
Maurice P. Destouet, 2001
Pamela C. Sellers, 2002
Hon. Holly J. Fujie, 2003
Susan Steinhauser, 2004
Edith R, Matthai, 2005
Meredith Blake, 2006


Eve L. Hill, 2007
Hon. Michelle Williams Court, 2008
Eileen M. Decker, 2010
Kathleen McDowell, 2011
Mary-Christine (M.C.) Sungaila, 2012
Hon. Nicole C. Bershon, 2013
Hon. Beverly Reid O’Connell, 2014
Lisa Jaskol, 2015
Katherine M. Forster, 2016
Anne C. Tremblay, 2017
Hon. Sandra R. Klein, 2018
Nancy Mintie, 2019                        Hon. Karla D. Kerlin, 2020      Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, 2021
Martha Escutia, 2022                    Wilma Pinder, 2023

The Courage Award

History: The Courage Award was created in 1999 in response to increasing hostility toward women’s reproductive rights and the challenges to keeping abortion safe, legal, and accessible to women of all income levels. The Courage Award further acknowledges the historic and ongoing challenges that women face in accessing fair and unbiased healthcare services and support.

Award Criteria: The Courage Award honors an individual or organization who has shown exceptional dedication and commitment in the fight to protect and promote all aspects of women’s sexual, maternal, and reproductive health.


Governor Gray Davis, 1999
Representative Loretta Sanchez, 2000
Dr. Leroy Carhart, 2001
Joyce Schorr, 2002
Senator Barbara Boxer, 2003

Dr. Sarah Weddington, 2004
Gloria Feldt, 2005
Janice MacAvoy and Janie Schulman, 2016                                         Black Women For Wellness, 2023

Award Nominations

Please utilize our nomination page if you wish to (1) Seek to nominate an individual for an award presented by WLALA, or (2) Request that WLALA submit a formal nomination to a third-party organization. Self-nominations are welcome and encouraged.