- Massachusetts Probation Service
Media Contact for Lowell First Justice hosts first time program that introduces young women of color to law careers
Coria Holland, Communications Director
LOWELL, MA — Lowell District Court First Justice Stacey Fortes hosted “The Color of Justice," a recent day-long program on May 25 at the court which was designed to introduce young girls of color, who are in grades middle to high school, to potential future careers in the law. Judge Fortes said she is planning to make this an annual event.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do in Lowell for a few years and I finally got it off the ground,” said Judge Fortes, a member of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) in District 1, who moderated all three panels featured as part of the event.
The Washington, DC-based NAWJ, established in 1979, is described on its website as “a dynamic gathering of women judges who are dedicated to preserving judicial independence to women, minorities, and other historically disfavored groups while increasing the number and advancement of women judges, and providing cutting-edge judicial education.”
Approximately 40 young women from the Butler and Sullivan middle schools in Lowell, attended the event which featured three panel discussions with speakers who shared their personal experiences and backgrounds, according to Judge Fortes. The presenters encouraged the students to pursue careers in law, discussed the importance of personal commitment and perseverance, and the role and importance of court staff, probation officers, lawyers, and judges. Chief Steven Mastandrea and Assistant Chief Frederick Clark spoke about the work of Probation in the “What is it like to work in a courthouse” panel.
The first panel, “A Day in the Life of a Judge,” featured panelists Chief Justice of the Juvenile Court Amy L. Nechtem, who is a former NAWJ president; Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Associate Justice Kimberly Budd; Superior Court Justice Shannon Frison; NAWJ member and Juvenile Court Associate Justice Helen Brown Bryant; and Associate Justices of the District Court: Margaret Guzman, Ellen Caulo, and Barbara Pearson.
Attorneys from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Committee of Public Counsel’s Office and the local Bar Association served on the second panel, “How do I become a lawyer?” In the third panel, “What is it like to work in a courthouse,” Probation Chief Mastandrea and Assistant Chief Clark joined clerk magistrates, a performance analyst, an interpreter, and a court officer.
The students were treated to lunch offered during break-out sessions where the children and mentors continued their discussions which were followed by a tour of the courthouse. Each of the students were presented with tote bags, donated by NAWJ, filled with summer reading such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou and “Just Mercy,” an autobiography by Bryan Stevenson, an American lawyer, social justice activist, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.