Judge Bernadette D’Souza Becomes President of the National Association of Women Judges

The  year  2019  was  one  of  highs  and  lows  for  Honorable  Bernadette  D’Souza,  Judge,  Orleans  Civil  District  Court.    She  had  a  career-high  when  she  took  the  Oath  of  Office to become president of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) in Los Angeles  on  October  19,  2019.  She  was  honored  when  District  of  Columbia  Court  of  Appeals  Chief  Judge  Anna  Blackburne-Rigsby,  who  administered  the  Oath,  read  a  congratulatory  letter  expressing  sentiments  from  longtime  NAWJ  member,  Louisiana  Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson. This has been a season of new experiences for Judge D’Souza. In late 2018 she was  an  invited  speaker  at  the  U.S.  State  Department  International  Narcotics  and  Law  Bureau (INL) Office’s Role of Women in Justice Conference in Yerevan, Armenia.  The conference  united  Armenian  judges,  lawyers,  investigators,  and  law  enforcement  personnel on ways to overcome cultural obstacles in the justice system.  In March 2019, Judge D’Souza presented on “Integrated Domestic Violence Courts” at the United Nations Convention  on  the  Status  of  Women  in  New  York.  In  June,  at  the  invitation  of  Pope  Francis, she attended the First Pan American Judges’ Summit on Social Justice and the Franciscan Doctrine in the Vatican City where she made a presentation on “Equal Access to Justice: The Importance of Civil Legal Aid and Delivery of Justice to Eradicate Poverty.” She commented, “As a former legal aid lawyer representing the poor of our city, I was truly  humbled  and  privileged  to  have  been  bestowed  with  the  honor  to  participate.”  October brought her NAWJ appointment as president.

2 The  NAWJ’s  mission  to  “protect  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,”  aligns  with  principles  Judge  D’Souza  has  displayed  throughout  her  career.    During  her  NAWJ  swearing-in  ceremony,  she  mentioned  her  humble beginnings in Goa, India; the opportunities she was afforded, and the consistent support she received from her husband with whom she moved to the United States and started a family. She discussed her family’s encouragement during law school. With all the highs of 2019, in July there was a major loss; the challenge to endure the loss of her husband, best friend, and father to her three children.  His life of service, her faith and commitment to this important work of the bench has inspired her to move forward.  Judge D’Souza thanked her children, who were present at the swearing-in, and her colleagues, whose constant support helped her throughout this year. Regarding serving as president, Judge D’Souza expressed, “I am humbled by both the opportunity and responsibility of this office and inspired by the passion, grace, and dedication of our leaders and membership.  NAWJ provides a vital and unique source of community,  support,  diplomacy  and  integrity  to  our  members  and  the  individuals  we  serve.”  Judge D’Souza understands the highs and lows and uses them to complete her life’s work to serve others.  She is once again supported by family, her children and the spirit of her beloved husband, which she says give her the momentum to look beyond her emotions, see the needs of others, and concentrate on the work that must be completed.  Judge D’Souza’s theme for her term as NAWJ president is “Innovation Efforts to Improve  Access  to  Justice  through  Global  Judicial  Leadership.”  As  president,  she  will  utilize her NAWJ experience as a Co-chair of the Domestic Violence Committee, NAWJ Secretary, Chair of the Personnel Committee, Co-chair of the Executive Director Search Committee,  and  District  Director.    Judge  D’Souza  looks  forward  to  playing  host  to the NAWJ in New Orleans at its 2020 Mid-Year Meeting, March 11-13.
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