The award will be presented during the NBA’s 2019 Mid-Year Conference in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, March 9.

Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson has been selected to receive the prestigious Gertrude E. Rush Award, presented annually by the National Bar Association (NBA). The award will be presented during the NBA’s 2019 Mid-Year Conference in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, March 9.

The Gertrude E. Rush Award, established in 2003, is presented to those who embody the pioneering spirit of Gertrude E. Rush, the first African-American woman admitted to the practice of law in Iowa in 1918. Rush additionally was the sole female co-founder of the National Bar Association and the award recognizes those who demonstrate leadership in the community and in the legal profession, and demonstrate concern for human and civil rights.

“I am proud and honored to be recognized by the National Bar Association with this coveted award,” said Chief Justice Johnson. “I have always taken great pride in working to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and continue to strive to exemplify an unwavering commitment to justice and fundamental fairness.”

Chief Justice Johnson, who serves as the first African-American Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, was one of the first African-American women to attend and earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University in 1969. Chief Justice Johnson’s judicial career began in 1984 when she was the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans. In 1994, her colleagues elected her Chief Judge. She was then elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1994 and was re-elected without opposition in 2000 and 2010. As the senior justice on the Court, she was sworn in as Chief Justice on February 1, 2013.

As a young lawyer, she became the Managing Attorney of the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation (NOLAC), where she provided legal services to clients in socio-economically deprived neighborhoods. She practiced in federal, state, and juvenile courts, advancing the rights of children, the poor, the elderly, and the disenfranchised. Chief Justice Johnson has served on the National Campaign on Best Practices in the area of Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts as well as championed many successful initiatives, including the training and certification of the Limited English Proficiency Interpreters in the courts and the implementation of an electronic filing system for the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Having dedicated herself to a life of service, Chief Justice Johnson is widely recognized as a trailblazer in the judiciary and is the recipient of numerous highly coveted awards. The American Bar Association has long recognized the value of Chief Justice Johnson’s service, awarding her the 2010 Spirit of Excellence Award from the ABA’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, as well as the 1998 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

In October of 2013, she received the prestigious Joan Dempsey Klein Award, presented by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). She joins a distinguished list of Joan Dempsey Klein Award recipients that include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The National Bar Association, founded in 1925, is the nation’s oldest and largest association of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges. The NBA has also recognized Chief Justice Johnson’s work and service as a long-time member of the organization. In 2010, she was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame at the annual meeting and was awarded the Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate Award by Attorney Barbara Arnwine on behalf of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

Contributed by the Louisiana Supreme Court