Get an insider's look at the challenges state court judges face in charged political environments with Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Justice Barbara J. Pariente of the Florida Supreme Court, and former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus of the Iowa Supreme Court.
This program is presented in partnership with the Informed Voters Project, an educational program sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges.
Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby was nominated by President George W. Bush to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in August 2006. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby chairs the District of Columbia Courts’ Standing Committee on Fairness and Access, and serves as a Commissioner on the District of Columbia’s Access to Justice Commission. Prior to her appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby was nominated by President William Jefferson Clinton to serve as an Associate Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 2000-2006. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby also served as a Magistrate Judge on the Superior Court from 1995-2000.
Judge Blackburne-Rigsby was born in Washington, D.C. and attended elementary and high school in Jamaica, New York. She graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, and received the Duke University Presidential Leadership Award upon graduation. Following graduation from Duke University, she was selected to be one of twelve Public Affairs Fellows of the Coro Foundation in San Francisco, California. She earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1987, graduating in the top five percent of her class. While in law school, she served as the Lead Articles Editor of the Howard Law Journal and served as the Co-Captain for the Charles Hamilton Houston Moot Court Team.
Following law school, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby was an associate at the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP (formerly Hogan and Hartson) in Washington, D.C., where she litigated commercial, real estate, employment discrimination, and education matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. This included work on a major school desegregation case in Missouri, a case involving a nationwide audit of the employment practices of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and various pro bono immigration cases.
In 1992, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby joined the District of Columbia Office of the Corporation Counsel (now District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General), where she served as Special Counsel to the Corporation Counsel, working as part of the senior management team. She then served as Deputy Corporation Counsel in charge of the Family Services Division, where she was responsible for managing the Division's 65 attorneys and support staff in handling child abuse and neglect, child support enforcement, and domestic violence cases.
In 1995, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby was appointed to serve as a Magistrate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a position she held until her appointment as an Associate Judge in 2000. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby served in the Criminal, Civil, and Family Divisions, and the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby served on various Superior Court committees including the Judicial Education Committee and the Committee on the Selection and Tenure of Magistrate Judges.
Judge Blackburne-Rigsby has taught Trial Advocacy at the Harvard Law School and teaches Professional Responsibility as an Adjunct Professor at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. She has also taught several Continuing Legal Education courses for the District of Columbia Bar.
Judge Blackburne-Rigsby has also held offices in several judicial organizations. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby is currently the President-Elect of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). She also serves as Chair of the Board of Managerial Trustees for the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ). Previously she served as the Vice President for District 4 of NAWJ and as the Chair of the NAWJ Fairness and Access to the Courts Committee. She is a former Chair of the Washington Bar Association Judicial Council. In March of 2006, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby represented the IAWJ at a Judicial Conference in Turin, Italy, where she delivered a speech on Racial Equality in the Workplace at the Lavoro dei Migranti e Discriminazione Convegno. In 2003, she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in a conference of the African Judicial Network. Through her work with these organizations, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby has sought to promote the rule of law and equal access to justice.
Judge Blackburne-Rigsby’s volunteer and community service is not limited to legal and judicial activities. Among other things, she has served on the D.C. Rape Crisis Board; she is the former President of the Washington, DC Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and a member of the Washington DC Chapter of the Links, Inc.; and a life long member of the NAACP. She served as a Sunday school teacher at Shiloh Baptist Church; she is the former coach of the Catholic Youth Organization’s girl’s basketball team of St. Gabriel’s Church; and she also coached her son’s biddy basketball team at St. Ann’s Academy. Judge Blackburne-Rigsby has received awards for her legal, judicial and community service, including the Business and Professional Women’s League "Sojourner Truth Award.”
Judge Blackburne-Rigsby is married to Judge Robert Rigsby, Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court, former Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia, and a Colonel and Military Judge in the United States Army Reserves. They are the proud parents of a teenage son.
Barbara J. Pariente
Justice Pariente’s legal and judicial career has spanned over 40 years. She has been a Justice since 1997 and served as Chief Justice from 2004 through 2006. She has been a Floridian since 1973, having been born in New York City in 1948 and attended public schools in New York and New Jersey. She graduated with highest honors from Boston University. Justice Barbara J. Pariente She then attended George Washington University Law School, where she graduated fifth in her class in 1973, earning highest honors and membership in the Order of the Coif. She moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1973 for a two year judicial clerkship with United States District Court Judge Norman C. Roettger, Jr., of the Southern District of Florida.
After her judicial clerkship, Justice Pariente settled in West Palm Beach, where she joined the law firm of Cone, Wagner and Nugent in 1975 and became a partner in 1977. In 1983, she formed the law firm of Pariente & Silber, P.A. In both firms, she specialized in civil trial litigation. She earned certification by the Florida Bar as a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer as well as nationally by The National Board of Trial Advocacy. She was awarded an AV rating, the highest available, by Martindale-Hubbell. During her eighteen years in private practice, Justice Pariente served on the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee, the Florida Bar Civil Rules Committee, and the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission. She was instrumental in organizing Palm Beach County's first Bench-Bar Conference. She was a founding member and master of the Palm Beach County Chapter of the American Inns of Court, and was very active in the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, serving on its Board of Directors for many years.
In September 1993, Justice Pariente was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, where she served until her appointment as the seventy-seventh Justice of the Florida Supreme Court on December 10, 1997. During her time on the Supreme Court, she has worked to improve methods for handling cases involving families and children in the courts. Since 2010, she has served as the Chief-Justice’s designee to the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and was appointed in 2011 to the Department of Children and Families’ Child Protection Transformation Advisory Board.
Justice Pariente is currently the Chair of the Supreme Court's Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Courts, which works collaboratively to improve methods for handling cases involving children and families so that the interests and need of the child are paramount. Over the past decade, she has met with family court judges and staffs throughout Florida's judicial circuits, promoted judicial education on the unified family court and advocated for improved case management, case coordination, and non-adversarial methods of resolving these disputes. From 2000-2002, she was a member of the Florida Bar's Commission on the Legal Needs of Children. In 1999 she served on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Character Education, where she focused on promoting civic education.
Justice Pariente has also actively supported programs that promote successful alternatives to incarceration such as Florida's drug courts. For over a decade, she served as the liaison to the Supreme Court's Task Force on Treatment-Based Drug Courts and she helped to organize the first statewide conference on drug courts.
Based on her longstanding commitment to children, Justice Pariente remains involved as a mentor to school-age children. She has served as a mentor to students through Take Stock in Children, a program for helping economically disadvantaged students earn a college scholarship. Her most recent mentee is a senior in college. She is proud that another mentee, whom she began mentoring in ninth grade, has since graduated from college and began attending law school.
Justice Pariente was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 2008. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the George Washington University's Distinguished Alumni Award, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers' Jurist of the Year Award, the Florida Association of School Social Workers' Lifetime Achievement Award, the Palm Beach County League of Women Voters Good Justice Sandra Day O'ConnorGovernment Award, the William M. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award, the Visionary Award of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, the Jewish Museum of Florida's Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award, the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Distinguished Judicial Service Award, the Florida Association of Women Lawyers' Award in recognition of lifelong dedication to the success of women lawyers in the legal profession, the American Bar Association's Law Day Speech Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Palm Beach County Jewish Federation and the Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society Civil Litigation Pro Bono Award. In 2012, she received the "Gracias Award" by the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association.
Justice Pariente speaks frequently throughout the state to promote better awareness of the need for increased focus on civic education, on topics ranging from professionalism, judicial independence, the unified family court, juvenile justice and crime prevention. Justice Pariente's past publications include a contribution to the Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender entitled “A Symposium with Women Chiefs” at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Volume 13, No. 2 (April 2007); a contribution to Women Trial Lawyers: How They Succeed in Practice and in the Courtroom (Prentice-Hall 1987); and a contribution to the Saint Thomas Law Review Symposium Issue: “Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Clinical Legal Education and Legal Skills Training” St. Thomas Law.Review (Spring 2005). In addition, she authored an article in the Florida Bar Journal entitled "A Profession for the New Millennium: Restoring Public Trust and Confidence in Our System of Justice." 74 Fla. B.J. 50 (January 2000) and co-authored an article in the Florida Bar Journal entitled "Teaching Them a Lesson," 77 Fla. B.J. 6 (June 2003) about girls in the Juvenile Justice system.
Justice Pariente is married to the Honorable Frederick A. Hazouri, who retired in January 2013 as a judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal and now serves as a mediator. Together, they have three married children and ten grandchildren, all of whom live in Florida. In 2003, Justice Pariente shared with the public her successful treatment for breast cancer, in hopes of promoting greater awareness of this disease that strikes one in eight American women.
Marsha Ternus is a native of Iowa, growing up on a farm in northern Benton County. She received her bachelor’s degree with honors and high distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Iowa in 1972. She earned her law degree with honors, Order of the Coif, from Drake University Law School in 1977. While at Drake, Ms. Ternus served as editor-in-chief of the Drake Law Review. She has received honorary degrees from Iowa Wesleyan College (2005), Simpson College (2010), and Coe College (2011). She is admitted to practice law in the State of Iowa (1977) and the State of Arizona (1984, inactive status).
After law school, Ms. Ternus worked for sixteen years in the private practice of law in Des Moines, with a primary emphasis on civil litigation and insurance law. While in private practice, she served as president of the Polk County Bar Association, on the Board of Governors of the Iowa State Bar Association, on the Iowa Jury Instructions Committee, and on the Board of Directors of the Polk County Legal Aid Society. Ms. Ternus also served as president of the Board of Counselors of Drake University Law School and on the Drake Law School Endowment Board of Directors. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross for several years and was a participant in the 1983–1984 Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.
Ms. Ternus was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Governor Terry Branstad. The members of the court selected her as chief justice in 2006. She was the first woman to serve as chief justice of Iowa’s highest court. Her term on the court expired on December 31, 2010.
During her seventeen years on the court, Justice Ternus worked on a number of court initiatives and other efforts to improve the administration of justice in addition to her adjudicative responsibilities. She served as the judicial branch representative on the IOWAccess Advisory Council, which was instrumental in encouraging and guiding e–government projects. She also led efforts to implement an electronic document management system in the courts that will result in a paperless court system. Justice Ternus served on the judicial team that oversaw the design, development and construction of the Judicial Branch Building. She was also a member of the steering committee of the Iowa Supreme Court Commission on Planning for the 21st Century and served as co-chair of the commission’s administration team.
During her time as chief justice, Chief Justice Ternus encouraged court efforts to improve access to justice. In collaboration with Iowa Legal Aid, the court took steps to persuade Iowa lawyers to provide more pro bono services to persons who could not afford an attorney. The court also adopted rules to facilitate lawyers in providing unbundled legal services and organized a task force to study civil justice reform.
As chief justice, Chief Justice Ternus made the improvement of court oversight of child welfare cases a priority for the Iowa Judicial Branch. To this end, she led an effort to form and then chaired the State Children’s Justice Council, which consists of representatives of the judicial branch, state agencies and private entities involved in the child welfare system. The council works collaboratively to institute reforms and improvements in the Iowa courts’ processing of child welfare cases to minimize the time children spend in the foster care system. Chief Justice Ternus also served on the planning committee that organized a national summit on the protection of children in 2009.
Chief Justice Ternus served on the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices and was a member of the Conference’s Courts, Children and Families Committee. In addition, she chaired the Conference’s Court Management Committee and its Resolutions Committee. In 2009, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Chief Justice Ternus to the Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction, where she was one of only four state supreme court justices serving on the committee. During her time on the court, she also served on the Multi-State Performance Test Policy Committee of the National Conference of Bar Examiners and chaired the Law School Task Force of the Drake University National Commission II. In 1996, she received the Drake University Law School Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Recent Professional Endeavors. Ms. Ternus currently practices law in Des Moines, with a focus on appellate and trial case consulting and arbitration. She has served as an expert on various matters, including issues of Iowa law, legal ethics, and insurance coverage and bad faith.
Ms. Ternus serves as the Director of The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University, a part-time position. The Institute facilitates meaningful research and educational opportunities for students and faculty regarding the development and impact of public policy, as well as facilitating citizen involvement in the examination of public policy issues, encouraging civil debate and promoting discussion of divergent perspectives and opinions.
Ms. Ternus participates in the C. Edwin Moore Inn of the American Inns of Court and is a member of the American Academy of ADR Attorneys. Until her appointment as director of The Harkin Institute, she served on the Drake University Board of Trustees (2010-2013). Ms. Ternus recently completed her service on the selection committee for the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (2012-2013) and on the the American Bar Association’s Bar Admissions Committee (2010-2012).
In May of 2012, Ms. Ternus and two of her former colleagues on the court received the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. She has also been honored with the 2011 Outstanding Contribution to the Well-Being of Children & Youth Award from Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. and the 2011 Louise Noun Civil Liberties Award from the Iowa ACLU. In 2011, Ms. Ternus was recognized with the first annual award for outstanding contributions to the welfare of children given by the Iowa Children’s Justice Initiative.
Ms. Ternus is a frequent lecturer on various subjects, including judicial independence, the politicization of the judiciary, and reform of the criminal justice system. Her article, Do Americans Still Value an Independent Judiciary?, appeared in the 2011 edition of The Book of the States, a publication of The Council of State Governments. Her opinion piece, Politics on the Bench–A Judge’s View of Partisanship at Play, was published in the National Law Journal on January 20, 2014. Ms. Ternus also taught a short course on restorative justice at Grinnell College in the spring of 2013 .