Judge Black Award

Shown are Elizabeth Black Berry (daughter of the late Judge Norman W. Black) and Berte Black (widow of Judge Black), with Hon. Steve Kirkland (awardee), and Hon. Charles Spain (Section co-founder, past Chair, and awardee).

Given by the LGBT Law Section, formerly the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section, of the State Bar of Texas in memory of United States District Judge Norman W. Black to a past or present member of the State Bar of Texas for a signification contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered legal issues.

The Award is named after the late Honorable Norman W. Black (1931-1997), judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Judge Black was the federal judiciary’s liaison to the State Bar board of directors, and he pointedly criticized the board of directors when on October 4, 1996 it denied the initial creation of the proposed Gay and Lesbian Issues Section.  The Texas Lawyer mentioned Judge Black’s criticism at the time.  See Janet Elliott, Bar Denies Gay Issues Section, TEX. LAW., Oct. 14, 1996, at 1 (“I’ve always learned a lot about my fellow members from these meetings. . . . Today’s the first time I wasn’t real proud.”).

The Bar Association for Human Rights of Greater Houston, the driving force behind the creation of the Section, recognized Judge Black at its April 8, 1997 annual meeting with a plaque for his role as an outspoken guardian of human rights. Judge Black told the BAHR members of his vocal criticism of the State Bar board of directors and explained that his deep personal commitment to human rights was kindled during his youth as a Jew growing up in segregated Houston, matured throughout his judicial career, and nurtured through his collegiality with individuals such as the Honorable John Brown, who served as chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during the Civil Rights Era. Judge Black exhorted the BAHR members to continue the fight for an LGBT law section, concluding with the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.”

The State Bar board of directors voted on April 17, 1998 to approve the creation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section.  Judge Black’s 1996 rebuke was again published in the Texas Lawyer days before the board meeting.  See Janet Elliott, Two New Bar Sections Garner Support, TEX. LAW., Apr. 13, 1998, at 1.

Judge Black’s family graciously gave the Section permission to name the Award after him, and it was first given in 2000.

Slideshow

Recipients

2017

Shelly Skeen and
Hon. Christopher Walter

2016

Karen Langsley

2015

Judge Barbara Hanson Nellermoe

2014 

Suzanne Bryant

2013

Cece Cox 

2012 

Connie Moore 

2011 

Judge Charles Spain

2010 

Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer*

2009

Judge Steven E. Kirkland 

2008 

Ken Upton 

2007

John Nechman

2006 

Jerry W. Simoneaux, Jr.

2005 

Hon. John P. Loza

2003 

Roger S. Donley,

 

Matthew P. Eastus, 

 

Mitchell Katine, 

 

Claire Swift Kugler, 

 

Rebecca Robertson, 

 

Stephen G. Tipps, and 

 

Scott F. Wendorf 

2002 

Phyllis R. Frye

2001 

Hon. Debra Danburg, and

 

Hon. Senfronia Thompson

2000 

Chief Justice Jimmy Carroll, and

 

Judge Paul R. Davis, Jr.  

 

 

In Memoriam: Connie Moore

The LGBT Law Section of the State Bar of Texas has lost a great lawyer and one of its co-founders. Our friend Connie Moore died on August 24, 2015 at her home in Galveston.

Connie graduated from the University of Houston Law Center in 1986, where she met her life and law partner Debbie Hunt. Moore & Hunt, their Houston law firm, was an early fixture in the Houston’s emerging LGBT legal scene and the site of many meetings and parties for the Bar Association for Human Rights for Greater Houston (known as BAHR and now renamed as the Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston).

Connie was BAHR’s 1996–1997 president when, at the suggestion of Pat Wiseman, the lead attorney in the 1990s state-law challenge to the Texas homosexual conduct statute, a petition was circulated to form a Gay and Lesbian Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. More than fifty lawyers signed the petition, and on October 4, 1996 Connie, past BAHR president Mitchell Katine, and BAHR director Charles Spain went to Fort Worth to present the petition to the State Bar board of directors. In her speech to the board, Connie spoke movingly about families and the need for lawyers to effectively represent LGBT clients in divorce, child-custody, and similar cases.

Despite the trio’s lobbying and advocacy, the board of directors narrowly defeated the measure. Adding to the loss’s sting was a parade of directors who voted against the proposed Section, assuring the trio that the rationale was not anti-gay, but instead motivated by the fact that the issues could be “better represented within the existing Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section.” As Pat Wiseman was a key leader in the IRR Section, those comments rang quite hollow.

But as Connie knew, you just can’t quit. And sometimes the unexpected happens. Norman W. Black, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, approached the trio before they left Fort Worth and told them he was disappointed in the board’s vote and that they had to keep trying. And he went further, addressing the board later that day and speaking to the media: “I’ve always learned a lot about my fellow members from these meetings. . . . Today’s the first time I wasn’t real proud.” It proved another thing Connie knew, you never know who your friends and allies might be.

On April 8, 1997, BAHR held its annual meeting at Moore & Hunt. One of Connie’s last acts as outgoing president was to recognize Judge Black with a plaque for his role as an outspoken guardian of human rights. Judge Black told the BAHR members of his vocal criticism of the board of directors and exhorted them to continue the fight for an LGBT law section, concluding with the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.” Sadly, Judge Black died later that year. But Connie and others didn’t give up, and the State Bar board of directors voted on April 17, 1998 to approve the creation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section, which was transgender inclusive due to the work of Phyllis Frye. The Section is now known as the LGBT Law Section and is first such section of any unified bar in the Unites States.

The Section later recognized Connie as a co-founder, along with Frye, Katine, Spain, and Anne Pike. In 2012 Connie received the Section’s highest honor, the Judge Norman W. Black Award, which is given to a past or present member of the State Bar of Texas for a significant contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered legal issues.

Connie’s place in LGBT history and as a lawyer and friend to so many of us is fodder for many great stories, and her fellow traveler was always her law partner and wife, Debbie. But for us in the LGBT Law Section, regardless of whatever else Connie did, on October 4, 1996 she was in Fort Worth, she spoke up, and-as Judge Black exhorted-she never gave up.

Neither should we.

The 2015 Judge Black Award recipient is Hon. Barbara Hanson Nellermoe

Hon. Barbara Hanson Nellermoe, 45th Judicial District Court, San Antonio, is the 2015 recipient of the Judge Black Award.

In April 2014, more than a year before the Supreme Court of the United States issued their landmark ruling, Judge Nellermoe allowed a same-sex divorce case to proceed in her court, issuing a 5-page ruling finding that Texas state law and the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees and are therefore invalid.

Judge Nellermoe has served as judge of the 45th District Court since January 1, 2003. She is the Editor in Chief of the San Antonio Lawyer magazine and past president of the Bexar County Women's Bar Association. Both organizations have recognized her contributions by honoring her with the Belva Lockwood Outstanding Lawyer Award and the SABA President's Award for Outstanding Service to the Bar, respectively.

Click here for more information on the 2015 Judge Black Award recipient, Hon. Barbara Hanson Nellermoe.

2010 Award Winner

The Section gave its highest award (the Judge Norman W. Black award) posthumously to United States District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer for his significant contributions to LGBT legal issues and, in particular, his ruling in Baker v. Wade, at our annual meeting in Fort Worth. His daughter and Section member Pamela Buchmeyer accepted the award on behalf of her father and family. If you were present, you heard her regaling us with heartwarming stories about her father and his devotion to Civil Rights including his admonishment of the then-State Bar Board after it denied our section's recognition in 1997.