Who made the National Judicial College's list of '60 Courageous Judges'?

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Judge Frank Johnson

Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. presided over a case that desegregated the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 as a judge for the Middle District of Alabama. He later served on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans and the 11th Circuit at Atlanta. Photo by Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images.

The National Judicial College marked its 60th anniversary this week by releasing a list of 60 judges from around the United States and the world who have demonstrated courage, upheld the rule of law and provided justice for all.

“We hope this list raises people’s awareness of and appreciation for the thousands of steadfast judges who keep the promise of equal justice under law every day, including those days when it would be more popular or convenient for them to do something else,” said Benes Z. Aldana, president of the National Judicial College, in a Dec. 18 news release.

The list of “60 Courageous Judges” was first unveiled at the National Judicial College’s 60th anniversary celebration in Las Vegas on Dec. 7. The list includes Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., a federal judge who was on three-judge panels that issued decisions desegregating Montgomery, Alabama, buses in Browder v. Gayle (1956) and desegregated schools in Lee v. Macon County Board of Education (1967).

Johnson had crosses burned on his front lawn and needed around-the-clock protection from federal marshals for about 15 years, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. His mother’s house was also bombed.

In addition to other historical figures, it also highlights lesser-known judges who have adhered to the law, despite political pressure and personal attacks. When compiling the list, the National Judicial College accepted nominations from its alumni, faculty and staff. Aldana and other members of an internal committee made the final selections.

Along with Johnson, the 60 honorees include:

  • Judge Adrianne N. Heely Caires, a Hawaii family court judge. She was evacuated during this year’s unprecedented wildfires in Hawaii but continued to work to help children and families. She ensured that foster children were safe by finding many of them new shelters and medical care.

  • Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas. She presided over the trial that arose after conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones accused the parents of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut of a hoax. She experienced harassment and received threats for her rulings against Jones.

  • Judge Roy J. Manfredi, a New Mexico municipal court judge. He continued to perform all marriages after every other judge in Colfax County, New Mexico, did the opposite to protest the law that made same-sex marriages legal in New Mexico in 2013.

  • Judge Esther Salas of the District of New Jersey. She survived a gunman’s 2020 attack on her home. Salas, whose son was killed and husband was wounded, is working to pass legislation that better protects the privacy of judges.

  • Judge Genevieve Woody, a Navajo Nation tribal court district judge in Shiprock, New Mexico. She determined that a fellow Navajo Nation judge was guilty of abusing his office in 2016. She ordered him to forfeit his position.

To view the complete list of courageous judges, visit the National Judicial College’s website.

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