30th Annual Kate Stoneman Awards Honor Three Pioneering Women

By Alex Peebles
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2024 Kate Stoneman Ceremony

For 30 years, Albany Law School has formally celebrated the legacy of Kate Stoneman, Class of 1898, as the first woman to graduate from Albany Law School and the first woman to be admitted to the New York State Bar by honoring the women in law who continue to expand opportunities for women.

The beloved Kate Stoneman Day has become an esteemed Albany Law tradition that has honored dozens of women who embody Stoneman’s spirit and determination. 

On March 27, the Albany Law School community celebrated and honored three women who have made an impact on the legal profession and continue to blaze trails and further open doors for others. 

Kate Stoneman Day 2024 

Verna L. Williams, CEO of Equal Justice Works, received the 30th annual Kate Stoneman Day prestigious Miriam M. Netter '72 Kate Stoneman Award.

The Honorable Llinét Beltré Rosado '97, who was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division by Gov. Kathy Hochul in August 2023, and Professor Laurie Shanks, who devoted much of her career to mentoring hundreds of young women throughout their legal careers and teaching and training young lawyers as a professor in addition to her robust private practice, were recognized as 2024 Kate Stoneman honorees.

Verna Williams was introduced by Albany Law School President and Dean Cinnamon P. Carlarne.

"Verna has a very extensive background in teaching and practicing law. And she's not only a leader, but is a true scholar in the fields of civil rights and women's rights," Dean Carlarne said. "She served as the Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Prior to becoming Dean, she was a professor for many years and taught courses on family law, gender discrimination, and constitutional law. She founded and co-directed the Judge Nathaniel Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at the University of Cincinnati as well. Her work in the field really has influenced a generation of scholars, and I count myself among them."

Verna L. Williams

Williams has extensive experience teaching and practicing law and researching civil and women's rights. Before her time at the University of Cincinnati, Williams served as the Vice President and Director of Educational Opportunities at the National Women's Law Center focusing on gender equity in education. During her tenure at the National Women's Law Center, Williams successfully argued in front of the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. The case established that educational institutions must respond to and address complaints of student-to-student sexual harassment.

After graduating from Harvard Law School and Georgetown University receiving cum laude distinctions, Willams clerked for the Honorable David S. Nelson, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts. Following her clerkship with Hon. David S. Nelson, Williams practiced law at Sidley Austin LLP and the U.S. Department of Justice.

"When people can't access affordable legal services, their civil legal needs go unmet, leaving the most vulnerable and intentionally marginalized communities, whether because of poverty, race, or immigration status, they are left without vital assistance to protect their rights. For too many people, this access to justice gap means the promise of equal justice is ephemeral at best, generating distrust in the rule of law as well as in our system of government," Williams said. "…it will take all of these efforts and more to tackle the many challenges confronting us, but I am confident that by dedicating ourselves to being first in class, to being Kate Stoneman firsts, we will make a difference and promote equality for all in the process, thank you so much."

Prof. Laurie Shanks was introduced by the Honorable Elizabeth A. Garry '90, the 16th Presiding Justice for New York State's Supreme Court Appellate Division Third Department and fellow Kate Stoneman honoree.

"I can think of few women who have lived out that fierce, fearless spirit as boldly as Laurie Shanks. In supporting her nomination, I described her as a trailblazing luminary in the field of criminal defense. She entered that field over 45 years ago, shockingly, to say yes," Hon. Elizabeth Garry said. "And it was a time when women were not only vastly underrepresented in the legal profession but particularly so I believe in that field of practice. Few chose the challenging path that she pursued. Far fewer pursued that type of career with the passion and distinction that she has demonstrated, and exceedingly few have also gone on to teach and inspire at the highest levels of scholarship."

Prof. Laurie Shanks

Prof. Shanks joined the faculty at Albany Law School in January of 1989 as a clinical instructor and was later promoted to Clinical Professor of Law. During her time at Albany Law School, Prof. Shanks taught courses encompassing a variety of subject matter, including training law students in the basic skills needed to practice law ethically. On top of her classroom teachings, Prof. Shanks also took on crucial roles in teaching and supervising students in the Disabilities Law Clinic, the Domestic Violence Clinic, the Field Placement program, the Summer-in-Practice program, and the Semester-in-Practice program.

Before entering the classroom as a professor, Shanks served as the Training Director for the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office in Phoenix, Arizona, where she trained and mentored budding attorneys representing indigenous defendants. Shanks has also taught yearly for more than 25 years at the National College of Criminal Defense and the New York State Defenders Association Trial Practice Institute.

On top of her mentoring, teaching, and beginning a successful private practice, Prof. Shanks has clocked countless hours of pro bono representation for women who were victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"While there has been progress made, the fight for equality, inclusion and justice continues. In some ways, I feel that we've even moved backward, and the fight continues. There are millions of people in our country and around the world who are desperate, who are suffering and are desperate for assistance. At times, the misery and the scope of the problems seem just insurmountable," Prof. Shanks said. "It's difficult sometimes not to become overwhelmed, not to get depressed, not to get just feeling like it just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how much I do. It's not enough. And so maybe I don't need to do anything. We're not the first generation to confront the feeling that things are so bad. And so when I get discouraged, when I feel like I can't fight anymore, I remember lessons that I learned long ago in religious school and in a group of lessons that were entitled Ethics of the Fathers and the one that I was thinking about the most was one that said, you are not required to complete the work of repairing the world, but neither may you refrain from doing your part."

The Honorable Llinét Beltré Rosado '97 was introduced by Isabella Napodano '24, President of the Latin American Law Student Association at Albany Law School, and Prof. Mary Lynch, Chair of the Kate Stoneman Committee and the Kate Stoneman Chair in Law & Democracy.

"After being elected to the bench, Justice Rosado has served in or presided over some of New York State's most varied and challenging courts, parts, and proceedings such as family Court, a mental health part housing court, and an integrated domestic violence part," Napodano said. "She also served as a Children's Victim Act Justice in Bronx County. In July of 2023, Justice Rosado was elevated to her current position of Associate Justice of the Appellate Division First department. Justice Rosado teaches, speaks to community organizations, mentors, and advises countless young people."

"She [Justice Rosado] was then, and is now, resilient, diligent, and somewhat unaware of how truly skilled and talented and amazing she is," Prof. Lynch said. "Today, Justice Rosado continues the path she began as a student, linking arms with all who strive to overcome injustices and inequities."

The Honorable Llinét Beltré Rosado ’97

Justice Llinét Beltré Rosado '97  was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division by Gov. Kathy Hochul in August 2023. Having served as a judge for over a decade, Justice. Rosado was first appointed to the bench in 2013 as a judge for the Civil Court of the City of New York in Bronx County. Justice Rosado was designated Acting Justice of the Bronx County Supreme Court in 2016. Before becoming a judge, Hon. Rosado served as a public defender, an attorney for children, and a court attorney for three judges.

Now, Justice Rosado serves as a Commissioner of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission and is a member of the Gender Fairness Committee for the 12th Judicial District, the New York State Bench Book Committee. Hon. Rosado is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition and First Department Vice President of the National Association of Women Judges, NY Chapter. On March 12, Justice Rosado was named co-chair of the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts.

“I have been so blessed to have so many Kate Stonemans in my life. Mary Lynch, Professor Shanks, Judge Garry, I can keep going on and on. To be appointed Co-Chair with the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin is such an honor to me,” Justice Rosado said. “I was blown away by that phone call, and I know she’s watching me. And I just love this woman; she is 96 years old, and she puts us to shame. She goes into the office, and she continues to create woman judges. I love you, woman, and I stand on your shoulders as so many of us do.”

Katheryn D. Katz Kate Stoneman Student Award

Every year, Albany Law School students have the opportunity to compete for the prestigious Katheryn D. Katz Kate Stoneman Student Award. A $500 cash award is awarded to the student or students who submit an essay, mixed media, movie, poem, law article or other creative work that best answers the questions: “How has the legacy of Kate Stoneman—and her accomplishments in the legal profession—expanded opportunities for women in the practice of law? What would Kate Stoneman be fighting for today?”

The Katheryn D. Katz Kate Stoneman Student Award contest drew 12 incredible student submissions this year. The award is sponsored by Kate Stoneman Honorary Committee Members Elizabeth Katz, Amy J. Kellogg ’02, and Prof. Shanks.

Katheryn D. Katz Kate Stoneman Student Award winners

1st Place

Kassandra Pointer '26, Brianna Wagner '24

2nd Place

Kumiko Dabney '26

3rd Place

Joanne Lee ‘25

Najet Miah ‘25