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College of Law pays homage


June 04, 2007

Two Phoenix attorneys were recently given the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Patricia Lee Refo, a partner at Snell & Wilmer, and Carolyn (C.J.) Johnsen, a member of Jennings , Strouss & Salmon, were chosen for their work as co-chairs in establishing “Arizona Women Lawyers Honoring Justice O'Connor,” a new fund to honor O'Connor through the college that now bears her name.

The fund will be used for scholarships and other programs chosen in consultation with Justice O'Connor. The fund is the beginning of a 50-state effort by the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law to recognize the justice's legacy of judicial and community leadership.

Marilyn Seymann, associate dean of external affairs, says the effort by the women was extraordinary, especially since neither Refo nor Johnsen graduated from the college. Refo graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, and Johnsen from the Texas Tech School of Law.

“Both Carolyn and Trish are outstanding members of the women's legal community and have worked diligently to promote the presence of the law school to the women of our state,” Seymann says.

Johnsen says she was thrilled to receive the award, and adds that the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court influenced women across the country.

“The project was an easy one to undertake as the opportunity to lead the effort to pay tribute to Justice O'Connor has truly been an honor,” Johnsen says. “Justice O'Connor is an icon for women lawyers.”

Johnson credited the enthusiasm of Seymann and the college's dean, Patricia White, for the success of the project.

“ASU is a school that has had the vision to see Justice O'Connor as the national treasure that she is, and capture in the naming of the school what she represents, not just for women lawyers but for all lawyers,” Johnsen says.

Refo says she was inspired by O'Connor.

“It continues to be my privilege to honor Justice O'Connor by helping in some small way to build the law school that now bears her name, the only law school in the country named after a woman,” Refo says. “Her appointment to the Supreme Court changed the rules.”