Tribute to Judge Norma L. Shapiro.

Author:Shestack, Jerome J.

Learned Hand, speaking of Brandeis, once said that a person's life, "like a piece of tapestry, is made up of many strands which interwoven make a pattern;" to separate a single strand risks an injustice to the beauty of the whole. (1)

So it is with this brief tribute, which can hardly do justice to the content of so full and rich a life as that of Judge Norma Shapiro. Indeed, the true tribute to Judge Shapiro stands written at large, memorialized in the annals of her court, highlighted in her creative contributions to bench, bar, and community, and perhaps preserved best in the minds and hearts of the scores of persons she has counseled, mentored, and helped to advance.

Yet, at the risk I mentioned a moment ago, I shall dwell on one rich thread among the rest and that is her contribution to the betterment of our system of justice through her commitment to judicial independence and equality for women.

For most judges, the bench becomes insular. And no wonder; to grapple with the daily needs of justice is consuming, draining, and unrelenting. But for Norma Shapiro, there was always service beyond the walnut paneling of her courtroom.

In the hearts of most lawyers worthy of the name burns the ambition to leave the law a better instrument of justice than he or she found it. To most, the opportunity is denied. But Norma Shapiro, presented with the opportunity, seized it with passionate intensity.

She took the arduous journey that is required to become head of the ABA Judicial Division. Here, more than ever before, she involved judges as well as lawyers in the ongoing tasks of judicial independence. Judicial independence is a house with many chambers: merit selection; fair compensation; freedom from fundraising; administrative leeway; adequate staffing; availability of technology, and more. Under her stewardship, the Judicial Division became a key player in addressing these issues, often prodding a bar that had slouched toward apathy.

And her reach went beyond that Division. She was a leader in the ABA's influential Section Officers Conference, chaired the Coordinating Council of the ABA Justice Center, chaired the ABA Conference of Trial Judges, and more. As a member of the Special Committee on Judicial Independence, which I established during my term as President of the ABA, with former FBI Director William Sessions at its head, Judge Shapiro has been a prominent force. Judicial independence, in too many parts of our nation, still has far to...

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