Justice Petra Maes Receives ABA Spirit of Excellence Award

Petra MaesJustice Petra Maes (`73) of the New Mexico Supreme Court has received the 2012 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission for Racial and Ethnic Diversity. The award celebrates the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession.

“Justice Maes’ devotion to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession is evident in her positive influence in the New Mexico legal community,” said Commission Chair Reginald M. Turner.

Among her many contributions, Maes, the first Hispanic female to serve on a state Supreme Court nationwide, has supervised the judiciary’s automation department and lobbied for the judiciary’s budget. During her term as chief justice, her initiatives included changes to the process for divorce proceedings, designation of Children’s Court judges, improved court security and better treatment of jurors.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity through its committees and commissions, Maes said in accepting the award. This is especially true of “the Judicial Selection Commission, which makes recommendations to the governor when judicial vacancies occur,” Maes said. “The obstacle we face is that not enough attorneys of color and women apply.”

She also has worked to diversify the legal profession by advocating for the hiring of Hispanic law professors. “I learned diversity and inclusion in law school,” said Maes

The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is a catalyst to change the legal profession to reflect the society it serves. It helps racially and ethnically diverse lawyers advance their careers and standing in the profession. Its leadership, programs and information help the profession understand and eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination.

February 8, 2012