2010 Woman Lawyer of the Year: Nancy Duff Campbell

WBA to Honor Nancy Duff Campbell as 2010 Woman Lawyer of the Year

The WBA, in conjunction with the WBA Foundation, will honor Nancy Duff Campbell, founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), as the WBA Woman Lawyer of the Year at the organizations’ Annual Dinner on May 25, 2010, in Washington, DC. The Woman Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes a woman for her exceptional achievements in the legal profession and/or for her extraordinary contributions to the advancement of women in the profession.

The theme for this year’s WBA/WBAF Annual Dinner and awards ceremony, “Community Service,” is particularly fitting for Ms. Campbell. She is nationally recognized as a leading women’s rights advocate. For over 40 years, Ms. Campbell has spearheaded the development of women's legal rights through litigation, legislative advocacy, appearances before the Executive Branch and its agencies, and public education. She has participated in the development of key initiatives advancing and protecting women's rights, particularly in the areas of education, employment, health and reproductive rights, and family economic security.

In 1978, after four years of teaching law full time—first at Catholic University and then Georgetown University Law Center, Ms. Campbell brought her particular expertise on low-income women's issues to the Women's Rights Project of the Center for Law and Social Policy. In 1981, under her direction and that of her co-president, Marcia Greenberger, and of Board Chair Brooksley Born, the Women's Rights Project became the NWLC, now recognized as one of the nation’s pre-eminent women’s rights organizations, dedicated to furthering the legal rights and interests of women and girls, with a special emphasis on low-income women and their families.

In her over 30 years at NWLC, Ms. Campbell, known to all as “Duffy,” has been a leader in securing significant legislation for women and their families, including:

  • the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which improved the tax treatment of single heads of households, increased the child care tax credit, and removed 6 million poor families from the tax rolls;
  • the Social Security Amendments of 1983, which both ensured the system’s fiscal stability for years to come and expanded benefits for older women; and
  • the 1990 Child Care and Development Block Grant, which was the first comprehensive federal child care legislation since World War II.
She has been counsel in landmark litigation that has expanded women's opportunities, including: 
  • Haffer v. Temple University, the first Title IX case to successfully challenge an entire university athletic program’s sex discrimination;
  • Parents Without Partners v. Massinga, which established a legal right to state child support enforcement services without regard to income; and
  • Califano v. Westcoll, which established that needy unemployed women, not just unemployed men, could receive public assistance benefits for their children.
Ms. Campbell participated as counsel or amicus curiae in several cases that both reached the Supreme Court and expanded the rights of public assistance recipients—the vast majority of whom are women—in the six years she worked at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law (now the National Center for Law and Economic Justice). One of her first assignments at the Center was to write a petition for certiorari in a case that few thought would be accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. It involved the right of poor tenant farmers to challenge a federal regulation permitting their landlords to accept assignments of future federal crop payments as rent, which the tenants feared would permit landlords to force them to do all their financing through their landlords. Not only did the Supreme Court take the case, but it ruled in favor of the tenants in a case that still stands as one of the most important in the law of standing to sue, Barlow v. Collins.

Ms. Campbell also helped develop the first comprehensive set of Materials on Welfare Law, which were distributed across the country to help legal services lawyers master the intricacies of the then-new and developing area of the law, and she helped teach, with Ruth Bader Ginsberg (later appointed to the United States Supreme Court), the first classes on women and the law at Columbia University, before there was an official course on the topic.

The 2010 WBA/WBA Foundation Annual Dinner and awards ceremony will take place at the National Building Museum at 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 25, 2010. For additional information about the WBA/WBA Foundation Annual Dinner, including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, call 202-639-8880.

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