New York State Bar Association Honors Former Judge With Haywood Burns Memorial Award
From left to right: CUNY School of Law Professor Natalie Gomez-Velez, President Sherry Levin Wallach, Judge Betty E. Staton, Committee on Civil Rights co-chairs Hanna Madbak and Michael Diederich
Betty E. Staton, a former Family Court judge and president of Brooklyn Legal Services, received the Haywood Burns Memorial Award. She has dedicated her life to the service and empowerment of underprivileged people and people of color.
“I am thrilled to be presenting Judge Staton with this award,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association. “Her lifelong dedication to providing free legal services to members of her Brooklyn community who desperately need representation embodies the ideals of W. Haywood Burns, this award’s namesake.”
The award ceremony took place on April 25 at the City University of New York School of Law Auditorium and Community Room in New York City.
Named in honor of W. Haywood Burns, the former dean of CUNY School of Law, the award recognizes individuals who have made contributions to New York in a manner that reflects Dean Burns’ commitment to the struggle for justice, civil rights, and the empowerment of the powerless.
While raising two young sons as a single parent, Staton graduated from Brooklyn College. She then attended New York University School of Law on a full scholarship. While a law student, she traveled to several historically Black colleges and universities to recruit students for NYU. She was also one of four students who formed what is now the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association, which will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year.
After graduating from law school, Staton worked at Bedford Stuyvesant Community Legal Services for eight years, eventually becoming the deputy director and director of outreach and education. In 1987, Staton became a founding member of the first African American female law firm in the country. She remained a partner in the firm until 1991 when former Mayor David N. Dinkins appointed her to a ten-year term on the Family Court. She was reappointed in 2001 by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and served until her mandatory retirement age in 2004.
After retirement, Staton returned to Bedford Stuyvesant Community Legal Services and served as the executive director until the agency consolidated with what is now Brooklyn Legal Services. She then assumed the title of president, a position that she still holds. She continues to mentor students and young attorneys. Staton has received numerous community and professional awards and she volunteers with several community and professional organizations.