2018 marks a new change in the Roberts and Deiz Awards.
For details, see Award Information section and the President’s Message below.
About the Award
Justice Betty Roberts (1923-2011) was a leader in Oregon politics, the first woman appointed to the Oregon appellate bench, and a beloved mentor and advocate for women lawyers.
Judge Mercedes Deiz (1917-2005) was a trailblazer in the Oregon Bar as the first Black woman to practice law in Oregon and the first woman of color on the Oregon bench. She overcame racial bias throughout her career, and created opportunities for those who might otherwise be marginalized by society, to access legal resources and careers.
The OWLS Roberts & Deiz Award honors the legacies of both Justice Roberts and Judge Deiz as promoters of those from non-dominant cultures (e.g. women, people of color, LGBTQ, and those with disabilities).
Screening and Selection Criteria
Any graduate from an accredited law school, residing or doing business in the state of Oregon, except a member of the OWLS Board of Directors, OWLS Foundation, or the OWLS Roberts & Deiz Award Dinner Committee, is eligible to receive the OWLS Roberts & Deiz Award, of which more than one award may be given out in a single calendar year.
Former nominees may be re-nominated. Award recipients are selected based on outstanding personal and professional contributions to promoting non-dominant cultures (women, people of color, LGBTQ, and those with disabilities) in either the legal profession or the community at-large.
While the committee considers leadership activities and service, activities and conduct that evidence a nominee’s efforts toward promoting those from non-dominant cultures will be more helpful to the committee and to the OWLS Board of Directors in selecting recipients.
Examples of the kinds of work OWLS hopes to recognize through the OWLS Roberts & Deiz Award include: mentoring and providing opportunities for lawyers from non-dominant cultures to thrive, working to bridge the gap between the legal profession and non-dominant cultures in the community at-large, and working behind the scenes as an unsung hero/leader to mentor and highlight the struggles of those outside the dominant culture, whether in the legal profession or the community at-large.
*Nominees do not have to physically reside or work in Oregon to be eligible for the OWLS Roberts & Deiz Award. However, their contributions to promoting individuals from non-dominant cultures must be in Oregon.
Nominations are submitted in October each year. Click here for 2022 nomination form.
Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura, 2018
Elisa Dozono, 2019
Hon. Katherine Tennyson, 2019
Gina Johnnie, 2020
Doug Park, 2020
“President’s Message,” Advance Sheet, Spring 2018 (Vol. 29, No.2)
“As I reflect upon this past year as OWLS president, a theme that resonates with me is that this has been a year of change. As a nation we have witnessed a harrowing shift in our political climate and an assault on the basic civil rights of marginalized individuals within our communities. We have witnessed acts of discrimination toward people of color, immigrants and refugees, members of the LGBTQ community, women, and people with disabilities, and the demonization of low-income people. I, too, have grieved for the degradation of our national discourse and for the alarming erosion of the fundamental principles of equal protection, justice, and fair play.
Yet in the face of hateful and mean-spirited acts we have witnessed a heartening response. People across Oregon and throughout the nation have joined together to rise up and work to protect the rights of communities under attack.
OWLS is committed to fighting to make our legal community and our community at large more diverse and inclusive. We have joined with the specialty bars in taking a stand against white nationalism. We are currently partnering with the Multnomah Bar Association to develop programming that will address the lessons of the #MeToo movement for our legal community. We are committed to continuing to partner with lawyers and advocates across Oregon to help create and implement policies that disrupt discrimination in all forms. The OWLS board is taking steps to educate ourselves about anti-racism and structural bias while seeking funding to engage in in-depth board-wide training. As an organization, we want to be educated and mindful when exploring ways to promote and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the OWLS community.
OWLS is also committed to asking hard questions about our own institution and its practices. While this work takes time, we are starting to see meaningful change. Those who attended our most recent Roberts & Deiz Awards Dinner will have noted a change of structure; this year, OWLS began recognizing the recipient(s) of a unified Roberts & Deiz Award. This shift was the result of a long conversation about how we can mindfully address and remedy the implicit and structural bias that we found to exist within the Justice Betty Roberts and Judge Mercedes Deiz Awards nomination and selection process. We observed that historically, the awards process had resulted in the Justice Betty Roberts Award being bestowed on a white lawyer, and the Judge Mercedes Deiz Award being most often bestowed on a lawyer from a non-dominant culture.
The OWLS Board of Directors, Roberts & Deiz Awards Dinner Committee, and other OWLS committees sought to face this pattern with transparency and a self-critical eye. After receiving meaningful and welcome input from specialty bar groups and members of non-dominant cultures and marginalized communities, OWLS reached a decision last year to alter the structure of the Roberts & Deiz Awards. As of 2018, the Justice Betty Roberts Award and the Judge Mercedes Deiz Award have been unified into a singular award honoring the contributions of both of these seminal OWLS leaders.
Any attempt to engage in undoing institutional racism will be a formidable process. We did not arrive here in a day, and it will take time to see change. So, we must continue with stamina and hope. Going forward, OWLS will continue this important work by considering how to overcome implicit and structural bias within the current vetting and selection process for the award. While 2018 has presented important opportunities for change, I will be proud to stand with OWLS as we identify additional opportunities for growth and implement changes still to come.
Without reservation, it has been a great honor and a privilege to serve on the OWLS board and as OWLS president this past year. As the first Latinx president, I was proud to break yet another barrier in Oregon’s legal community. I am encouraged by the work that my fellow board members, past and present, have engaged in, and the work they have committed to continue, to help OWLS become a more diverse, inclusive organization that lifts up our legal community. In closing, I leave the many wise OWLS with this thought—transformational change is not comfortable work, but it is the only way we can build a better and brighter tomorrow for ourselves and for the legal community of the future. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I am encouraged by the fact that OWLS is willing to do the hard work necessary to create a more inclusive organization for the generations to come. While I will no longer be at the forefront, I will be standing by your side, cheering you on.”
Angela Franco Lucero, 2018 President, Oregon Women Lawyers