Published on: Thursday, September 1, 2022

Sixth Circuit Judge Bernice B. Donald, who was the first African American woman to serve on that court, will be awarded the National Judicial College's Sandra Day O'Connor Award (article available here).

Judge Donald, who announced last summer that she would be taking senior status after a trailblazing career, is the first judge to be competitively selected for the honor, which was established in 2021, with the inaugural award going to former Justice O'Connor herself, the NJC said in a separate announcement.

The award is just the latest first in a career of groundbreaking accomplishments for Judge Donald, who was the first African American female judge in the history of Tennessee and the first Black woman to serve as a bankruptcy judge and a district judge in that state's Western District.

She was also the first African American female officer of the American Bar Association, and in 2013 won the association's highest honor.

Judge Donald, who was nominated to the Sixth Circuit by former President Barack Obama in 2010 and confirmed in 2011, served as a staff attorney at Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. early in her career, providing legal assistance to low-income people. She later worked at the Shelby County Public Defender's Office until her 1982 election to her first judgeship.