Pioneering Practitioner Honored With Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award From New York State Bar Association’s Women In Law Section

By David Alexander

January 24, 2023

Pioneering Practitioner Honored With Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award From New York State Bar Association’s Women In Law Section


By David Alexander

The Chief United States District Judge, Western District of New York, Elizabeth Wolford received the Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award during the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates at the association’s Annual Meeting in New York City.

“Judge Wolford epitomizes the very essence of this award,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association. “She is an exceptional lawyer who has long been at the forefront of expanding diversity and elevating the role of women in our profession. She is a transformative leader who has spent her career selflessly dedicating her time towards helping others.”

Judge Wolford was appointed by President Obama as the first woman to hold the position of federal District Court judge in the Western District of New York. In 2021, she became the first woman to become the chief judge of the Western District.

“I did not know Ruth Schapiro but based on everything that I have read since receiving notice about this award, I am truly humbled to be receiving this award named in her memory,” said Wolford.

In response to a 2017 report entitled “If Not Now, When? Achieving Equity for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR”, which encouraged judges to adopt policies that would result in more women having the opportunity to appear in court, Judge Wolford was among the first to implement a rule in her chambers that “strongly encourages litigants to permit more junior attorneys to examine witnesses at trial.”

Although the rule applies to all attorneys, its impact has been a positive one for women.

“We all know that women have made tremendous strides in the profession from the time Ruth Schapiro graduated law school about 70 years ago and the time I graduated law school about 30 years ago,” said Wolford. “I can only imagine the different experiences that she had as opposed to my experiences. The New York State Bar Association and the Women In Law Section deserve a great deal of credit for promoting women and being instrumental in advocating for the advances that women have made in the profession, but there is no question that our work is still to be done.”

Judge Wolford is a past president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and the Monroe Country Bar Foundation and served as a member of the Board of Directors for Just Cause. In addition, she is a past recipient of the association’s Root/Stimson and the Outstanding Young Lawyer awards.

The Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award, presented by the Women in Law Section, recognizes exemplary achievement by a male or female member of the association in addressing the concerns of women. It was established in honor of the Committee on Women in the Law’s first Chair, Ruth G. Schapiro.

The Women In Law Section sponsored the 19th Annual Edith I. Spivack Symposium during the Annual Meeting. The symposium’s central theme was “The Perpetual Gender Pay Gap: How Unequal Pay Negatively Impacts Women, Society, and the Profession.”



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