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.
- 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