National Employment Lawyers Association recognizes Judge Bernice Donald with Distinguished Service Award

Burch, Porter and Johnson, PLLC is proud to announce that Hon. Bernice B. Donald (Ret.)  been recognized as a 2024 Distinguished Service honoree by NELA (National Employment Lawyers Association). Her award will be presented at a ceremony during the NELA annual convention in Philadelphia, PA on June 27, 2024. The award is given to persons who exemplify distinguished service, inspiring leadership and a strong commitment to the cause of justice for workers. Judge Donald joins fellow awardee Bruce A. Fredrickson of Washington, D.C. and Camille Fundora Rodriguez, who will receive the 2024 Spotlight Award recognizing a NELA leader who represents the future.

2024 NELA Distinguished Service awardee, Hon. Bernice B. Donald, is a trailblazer with an extraordinary record of public service. In January 2023, she retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, concluding a 40-year judicial career which began when she won election to the General Sessions Criminal Court for Shelby County, TN and became the first African American woman judge in the state. Judge Donald later became the first African American woman to serve as a U.S. Bankruptcy judge and made history again first, when President Bill Clinton nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, and then when she was appointed to the Sixth Circuit by President Barack Obama. While Judge Donald’s long-standing involvement with NELA may be a small component of her countless contributions to American jurisprudence, it has been highly significant. A popular speaker at CLE events, her pioneering work on implicit bias has elevated the national conversation about systemic inequities in the law and the legal profession.

Following her retirement from the bench, Judge Donald joined Burch, Porter & Johnson in Memphis, TN. A nationally recognized third-party neutral, Judge Donald serves as an arbitrator or mediator in a wide range of specialized areas and regularly serves as a court-appointed special master.

A 1979 graduate of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Judge Donald also holds an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Suffolk University.

NELA was founded to empower workers’ rights attorneys through legal training, promote a fair judiciary and advocate for laws and policies that level the playing field for workers. To learn more about NELA, visit: