Fay Stender

CWL established the Fay Stender Award in 1982 in honor of Fay Stender, a Bay Area attorney who spent much of her professional life fighting for prisoners' rights.

Fay Abrahams Stender was born in Berkeley in 1932, the third generation of her mother's family to be born in the Bay Area. She attended Reed College and graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a major in English Literature, going on to receive a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1956.

After clerking for Associate Justice John W. Shenk, California Supreme Court, Ms. Stender associated with criminal defense attorney Charles Garry, where, over the next ten years, she founded the Prison Law Project and represented a number of prisoners, including George Jackson, whose prison letters were published in 1970 as Soledad Brother. She was also active in professional organizations on the national, state and local levels. She was a member of CWL's first elected board, and even after leaving the board remained actively involved in the organization's work. Fay chaired CWL's Joint Custody Project, and served on the advisory Committee of the Women's Litigation Unit. She also chaired the San Francisco Bar Association's Employment of Women Committee, and served on the charter board of Equal Rights Advocates' Lesbian Rights Project.

In the early morning hours of Memorial Day, 1979, Fay was shot five times by an intruder who falsely accused her of betraying George Jackson. Gravely injured and seriously disabled, she took her life one year later. She was survived by her mother, sister, husband, two children, and by numerous friends and colleagues.

Throughout her life, Fay undertook unpopular causes and worked with under-represented groups and individuals. Her tenacity, creativity, and compelling sense of justice were legendary, and her commitment, energy and integrity enriched all who were privileged to work with her.

The annual award is given to a feminist attorney, who, like Fay 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.

Candidates for the award are judged on the basis of the following attributes which were characteristic of Fay Stender:


  • Zest, humanity, personal courage, forceful presence and non-conformity;
  • Demonstrated commitment to under-represented or disadvantaged groups or unpopular causes.
  • Demonstrated feminist perspective;
  • Vigorous advocacy on behalf of women litigants which serves as a model for women attorneys;
  • Demonstrated ability to effect change as a single individual;
  • Lack of public recognition that the candidate possesses these attributes.

The Fay Stender award is typically presented at CWL's Annual Dinner.

Visit the CWL Awards page for nomination submission criteria.

Past Recipients:

2023: Gloria Allred, Allred, Maroko & Goldberg
2022: Kimberly La Salle, Moor Law for Children
2021: Brenda Star Adams, San Francisco Attorney
2020: Rose Carmen Goldberg: California Attorney General's Office
2019: Merriane Dean, The Dean Law Group
2018: Sandra Muñoz, Law Office of Sandra C. Muñoz
2017: Leslie Levy, Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP
2016: Elaine A. Alexander, Appellate Defenders, Inc.
2015: Cynthia Chandler, Golden Gate University School of Law
2014: Hon. Lynn Schenk
2013: Patricia K. Gillette, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP
2012: Jane Kahn, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, San Francisco
2011: Hanna Beth Jackson, Former Assemblywoman and Attorney
2010: Victoria Jacobs, Voluntary Legal Services Program, Sacramento
2009: Sharmin Esraghi Bock, Alameda County District Attorney's Office, Oakland
2008: Hon. Julie Conger (Ret.)
2007: Hon. Kim R. Hubbard, Orange County Superior Court
2006: Tanya Neiman (Dec.)
2005: Lilia S. Velasquez, Law Office of Lilia S. Velasquez, San Diego
2004: Bonnie Rose Hough, Administrative Office of the Courts, San Francisco
2003: Kate Yavenditti, Law Office of Kate Yavenditti, San Diego
2002: Lilly T. Spitz, California Planned Parenthood, Sacramento
2001: Nancy K. D. Lemon, University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, Berkeley
2000: Sharon Kalemkiarian, Ashworth, Blancett, San Diego
2000: Beth H. Parker, Arnold & Porter LLP, San Francisco
1999: Meredith Blake, Cause & Affect, Los Angeles
1999: Carol Churchill, Signall Hill
1998: Tina Rasnow, Emeritus Attorney, Ventura County Bar Association
1997: Donna Bashaw, Laguna Hills
1996: Abby Leibman, Los Angeles
1995: Gay C. Grunfeld, Rosen, Bien & Galvin, San Francisco
1994: Abby J. Silverman, Los Angeles
1993: Hon. Nancy L. Davis, San Francisco Superior Court
1992: Drucilla Stender Ramey, Dean, Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco
1991: Pauline W. Gee, Office of the California Attorney General, Sacramento
1990: Patricia Herzog (Dec.)
1989: Margaret Crosby, ACLU of Northern California, San Francisco
1988: Winter Dellenbach, Palo Alto
1987: Hon. Marsha Berzon, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
1986: Susan McGreivy, Ithaca, NY
1985: Marian M. Johnston, Sacramento
1984: Amanda Hawes, Partner, Alexander Hawes, LLP, San Jose
1983: Eva Jefferson Patterson, Founder and President, Equal Justice Society, San Francisco
1982: Karen Kaplowitz, Founder and President, The New Ellis Group, New Hope, PA