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YWCA awards received by law professor, Arizona Chief Justice

February 24, 2011

Jennifer Barnes, director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Social Entrepreneurship and Clinical Education Program and Externship Program, and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor (ret.) recently were recognized by the YWCA of Maricopa County for helping their communities achieve social and economic equality.

The two were among 11 women honored at the 2011 Tribute to Women, the YWCA’s 18th annual awards luncheon to congratulate those whose lives and accomplishments embody the organization’s mission of empowering women and eliminating discrimination. The luncheon was Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

Barnes, a 1987 alumna of the College of Law, received the Education Leader award for her work with hundreds of students, primarily at the law school, but also as a volunteer at elementary and middle schools. McGregor, a 1974 graduate of the law school, where she is Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence, was named the Public Service Leader for the exemplary job she has done assuring citizens equal access to the courts in Arizona.

Barnes first taught at the law school as an adjunct professor in 1997, and then came on board full-time in 2001 as a visiting professor in the Civil Justice Clinic. She later taught students in the Indian Legal Clinic, in the Lawyering Theory and Practice course and, most recently, in the fast-growing Externship Program. In 2002, Barnes was appointed director of the Civil Justice Clinic, supervising law students representing homeowners and renters who were victims of real-estate scams, as well as cases involving tenants’ rights, and employment law-related disputes. Under her tutelage, the Clinic in 2008 received the top award from the Volunteer Lawyers Program in Maricopa County for providing legal services to Arizona victims of foreclosure rescue scams.

As director of the College’s innovative Social Entrepreneurship and Clinical Education Program, Barnes provides administrative support to 11 different clinics, while in her role as head of the Externship Program, she annually supervises nearly 200 students working in externships in more than 80 nonprofit agencies and judicial placements.

McGregor, a former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), is a former trial attorney and Arizona Court of Appeals judge who joined the Arizona Supreme Court in 1998. She was chief justice from 2005 until her retirement in 2009. McGregor is recognized throughout the United States for her work as a state court high judge.

At the luncheon, videos were shown of all 11 winners. Barnes said the missions of the YWCA and the College of Law’s Social Entrepreneurship and Clinical Education Program are connected.

“A lot of our philosophy is about empowering people who have not been able to access the legal system, whether they have unemployment issues, have lost their homes, have landlord/tenant issues – anything that helps them get back on their feet,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who is known for having an office door that is always open to students, staff, faculty and alumni, is passionate about teaching, and she works hard to ensure students have a rich experience that also trains them to be professional, ethical, hard-working attorneys.

Similarly, McGregor said, the goals of the justice system and YWCA are closely aligned. When she first became a judge, she learned the importance of recognizing the dignity of people – victims, witnesses, attorneys, jurors and others -- who came to court, and ensuring that everyone had access to it.

When she graduated from law school, McGregor said “many lawyers and not a small number of judges thought women should not practice law, and especially not as trial lawyers.” She helped start a women lawyers association, which encourages its members to “work harder and be better than the lawyers on the other side” to this day.

Today, McGregor is helping lead the law school’s new Project on Federalism and Separation of Powers in a Global Era, teaching a Human Trafficking Seminar this semester, and is convening with Justice O’Connor a conference, Combating Human Trafficking: How Coordinating International, Federal and State Law can Prevent and Punish Exploitation while Protecting Victims, Friday, March 11, at the College of Law.

To read an article about Barnes’ work, click here.

To read about McGregor, click here.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law