About Us

Lawyers Club established the Woman of Color Excellence Award in 2013 to recognize a woman of color who has demonstrated excellence or has been exemplary in her field; and has advanced the status of women of color in the law or society. There is no requirement that the recipient be a Lawyers Club member.

2021 womAn of color excellence award - HOn. IRMA Gonzalez (Ret.)

Judge Gonzalez’s distinguished legal career includes many firsts in the legal profession. Judge Gonzalez was the first Mexican American woman to serve as a federal judge in the United States when she was appointed in 1992 to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. She served as Chief Judge from 2005 to 2012. Prior to her federal appointment, Judge Gonzalez was the first Latina woman appointed to the San Diego Superior Court in 1991. She was the first Latina magistrate judge to be appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in 1984. Now retired from the bench, Judge Gonzalez serves as a respected mediator and arbitrator in a variety of civil cases. 

Over the course of her legal career, Judge Gonzalez has been very involved with local San Diego community organizations, including being a founding member of Latinas in the Law, which focuses on mentoring younger Latinas in the law. She continues to serve as a  member of the Lawyers Club Advisory Board, is a member of the Federal Bar Association’s Advisory Board, a Master of the Enright Inn of Court, and a member of the Judicial Advisory Board of Association of Business Trial Lawyers. In March 2017, Judge Gonzalez was inducted into San Diego’s Women’s Hall of Fame and continues to serve as an inspiration for young Latinas and women of color to realize their dreams.

Past Recipients 

2020  - Hon. Vallera J. Johnson

2019  - Janice P. Brown

2018  - Hon. Patricia Y. Cowett

2017  - San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott

2016  - Hon. Elizabeth A. Riggs

2015  - Hon. Tamila E. Ipema

2014  - Hon. Sunshine S. Sykes

2013  - Hon. Terrie Roberts