California Women Lawyers is pleased to announce the 2021 winners of two of our signature awards

CWL will present the Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award and the Fay Stender Award at the annual dinner set for this fall. CWL will also spotlight each award recipient through our signature CWL at Home event, “In Conversation With”, which highlights important topics on issues central to the CWL mission. The virtual program featuring Ms. Adams is set for May 20 and Judge Weber’s will be presented on June 17.

Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award
Hon. Joan P. Weber, Superior Court of California, County of San Diego

The Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award honors a Southern California judge each year, recognizing excellence as a jurist and longstanding vigorous service and inspiration to the women lawyers of California. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan P. Weber will receive the 2021 Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award. Currently serving in the criminal trials division of the San Diego Superior Court, Judge Weber was the youngest person to ever serve on what was then the Municipal Court when she joined the bench in 1990.

A graduate of The Ohio State University and the University of Arizona School of Law, Judge Weber served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of California and in private civil practice in Arizona before Governor George Deukmejian appointed her to the bench. Her leadership roles have included supervising the court’s criminal division in the mid-1990s, the North County Division in the early 2000s, and as Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division. She led the first all-female executive team during her tenure as president of the California Judge’s Association. As a fellow judicial officer wrote, “Like Justice Klein in her efforts on behalf of our system of justice, Judge Weber has been a mentor and an inspiration to women lawyers and judges alike, as well as to countless young people she has encouraged to pursue a career in the law.”

In all her roles, Judge Weber has tirelessly pursued judicial and legislative changes to address shortfalls in funding and inequities in the administration of justice. Long a champion of advancing women in the law, Judge Weber has served as both formal and informal mentor to numerous women, some of whom have gone on to serve as judicial officers themselves. One of the issues closest to her heart is civics and community education, including using creative storytelling tools to teach children about the law.

CWL established the “Distinguished Jurist” award in 1994. Its first recipient was Justice Joan Dempsey Klein (Dec), a CWL founder and a champion of women’s rights.


Fay Stender Award
Brenda Star Adams

San Francisco attorney Brenda Star Adams will be honored with CWL’s 2021 Fay Stender Award.

The award, named for Bay Area attorney Fay Stender who passed away in 1980, is given to a feminist attorney, who, like Stender, is committed to the representation of women, disadvantaged groups and unpopular causes, and whose courage, zest for life and demonstrated ability to effect change as a single individual makes her a role model for women attorneys. Currently serving as Senior Counsel in Education Equity and Litigation at Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) in San Francisco, Adams leads ERA’s sexual violence litigation and education equity work, including setting strategic goals, developing impact litigation strategies, leading impact litigation teams, managing pre-litigation advocacy, and providing technical support on legislative efforts.

A graduate of the University of California, San Diego, and New England Law, Adams has also devoted her considerable energy, ability, and passion to advocating in and out of the courtroom for those seeking relief from abuse and discrimination. Whether through direct representation, leading impact litigation teams, or working on legislative change, Brenda is a zealous advocate for persons who have suffered discrimination and abuse. With media appearances, writings, and trainings too numerous to list, Adams has sought to shine a bright light on some of the most insidious behaviors and policies that directly impact the ability to be safe and thrive at home, school, and work. As one of her former colleagues wrote of Adams, “Her passion to conquer the inherent injustice that accompanies poverty, racism, and sexism made her a force to be reckoned with. Through her tireless efforts, she inspired her colleagues, instilled a sense of confidence and reassurance in her clients, and restored human dignity one case at a time.”


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