Each year, the California Women’s Law Center selects one or more individuals working for justice on behalf of women and girls to receive the Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice Award. The Ceremony at which the awards are conferred serves as an opportunity to honor the awardees and to celebrate CWLC’s continuing work.
CWLC began the Pursuit of Justice Awards tradition in 1995. In 2001, the award was presented to and re-named in honor of out-going director and CWLC founder Abby Leibman.
The 2011 Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice awards were presented to Sandy Jo MacArthur, Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, to Yoav Potash for chronicling and to Joshua Safran and Nadia Costa for fighting the legal battle to free a woman who was wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of her abuser, to Dr. Michael Messner, professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, and to Veronica Ollier, Naudia and Maritza Rangel, and Amanda and Arianna Hernandez, plaintiffs in the Title IX class action Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District.
Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur is the highest ranking woman in the Los Angeles Police Department. Her inspiring career with LAPD spans over 30 years, beginning in 1980 when she joined the force. During her first 10 years with LAPD, she worked in the Patrol, Vice, and Special Problems units. She then steadily rose through the ranks, promoted to Sergeant in 1990, Captain in 2005, Commander in 2006, and finally to Assistant Chief in 2008. In the last 5 years, she has led several challenging LAPD initiatives, including: broad reforms of the LAPD as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, mobile field force trainings, regional training in counter-terrorism capabilities, and redesigning LAPD’s recruit training program.
Yoav Potash is an award-winning writer and filmmaker whose work addresses issues of race and injustice. His documentary “Crime after Crime” chronicles the legal battle of two pro-bono attorneys - Joshua Safran (Safran Law Group) and Nadia Costa (Miller Starr Regalia) - to free Debbie Peagler, a woman wrongfully imprisoned for over a quarter century due to her connection to the murder of the man who abused her. Prior to stepping forward to take on Peagler’s case, Safran and Costa had no background in criminal law and yet prevailed to win her freedom. Potash’s “Crime after Crime” premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, won the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media from the Council of Foundations and was recently picked up by the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Dr. Michael Messner is a professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, where he serves as director of USC’s Gender Studies Program. His teaching and research focus on gender and sport, men and masculinities, and gender violence, and his work on Title IX suggests that equality for women in sports benefits society in general by eliminating sexist attitudes. Messner teamed up with former CWLC senior staff attorney Nancy Solomon to write “Social Justice and Men’s Interests: The Case of Title IX,” published in Journal of Sport and Social Issues in 2007. In 2010, the USC Center for Feminist Research released the most recent update of his longitudinal study, “Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlight Shows, 1989-2009.” The author of several books, including the recent It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families and Youth Sports (California 2009) and King of the Wild Suburb: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Guns (Plain View Press, 2011), Messner is the immediate past president of the Pacific Sociological Association. He is currently researching men who work with boys in preventing gender-based violence.
Veronica Ollier, Naudia and Maritza Rangel, and Amanda and Arianna Hernandez, 5 brave Latina softball players in Chula Vista, stood up for all girls at Castle Park High School by demanding that the school stop favoring the boys and discriminating against the girls in the school athletic program. These girls stood their ground despite facing retaliation and personal hardship, and all testified about how important sports are to them and how girls deserve the same educational opportunities as boys. Their historic civil rights case was tried in the fall of 2010 and is the first Title IX class action in California history targeting discrimination in high school sports programming go to ever go to trial. We are still awaiting the judge’s ruling in the case.
Past Award Recipients
Maria Rodriguez (posthumously)
Anita L. DeFrantz
LeRoy H. Carhart, M.D.
Sheila Kuehl, CWLC founder
Patricia A. Shiu
Beatriz Olvera Stotzer
Abby J. Leibman, CWLC founder
Diana M. Bontá, R.N, Ph.D
Carla Sanger, M.Ed.
Barbara Enloe Hadsell
To go from here