The Honorable Irma S. Raker has been honored with the American Bar Association’s (ABA) esteemed Margaret Brent Award for her professional excellence, distinguished service and contributions to women in the legal profession. Raker, recognized as a pioneering jurist and leader in criminal justice policy development who has paved the way for other women lawyers, received the award on August 12, during the ABA’s 2007 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. This top award is a special honor for Raker as it carries the name of Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America, who hailed from Southern Maryland.
Arriving in the colonies in 1638, Margaret Brent was the first woman lawyer in America as well as a master negotiator, accomplished litigator and well-respected leader. In eight years, she was involved in 124 court cases and won them all. In 1648, Brent formally demanded a “vote and voice” in the Maryland Assembly, which the governor denied. Over 250 years later, Harper’s magazine noted: “By this action, Margaret Brent undoubtedly placed herself as the first woman in America to make a stand for the rights of her sex.”
Now, Raker is one of five distinguished women legal professionals across of the country to receive this exceptional ABA tribute. Every August, the ABA presents the Margaret Brent Award to five deserving women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence while influencing other women to pursue legal careers, opening doors for women lawyers in job settings that historically have been closed to them and advancing opportunities for women within the profession of law.
“I am very humbled and honored to receive this award,” exclaims Judge Raker. “In as much as the award was named after Margaret Brent, an early Marylander, I really do believe that this award belongs to all of Maryland. Jeanette Wolman, a Maryland trailblazer, was the first recipient of this award in 1991, and it is nice that it is returning to Maryland.”
Judge Raker is only the second woman in the well-over-200-year history of the Court to serve on this, Maryland’s highest court, and she has proven to be a great asset,” asserts Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals. “She is an assiduous worker, an effective, scholarly, and articulate opinion writer, a willing team player and a very valuable colleague. Her career has been characterized by efforts to further the understanding of justice and an unwavering commitment to excellence, particularly as it relates to the education of lawyers and judges.”
After earning her law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1973, Raker served as the Assistant State’s Attorney for Montgomery County until 1979, when she joined the law firm Sachs, Greenebaum, and Tayler as a partner. In 1980, Raker was appointed Associate Judge of Montgomery County’s District Court, and rose to the Montgomery County Circuit Court in 1982. On January 7, 1994, Raker joined the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Raker chairs the Judicial Compensation Committee and is a member of the Maryland Judicial Conference and Public Awareness Committee. She has served on the Maryland State Bar Association’s Board of Governors, chaired its Criminal Law & Practice Section and currently heads the Committee to Draft Pattern Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases. She is also a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of Maryland, Women’s Bar Association of District of Columbia and National Association of Women Judges, where she served as President of the Maryland Chapter in 1994.
An adjunct professor at Washington College of Law, Raker has received many awards throughout her career, including the esteemed Rita C. Davidson Award from the Women’s Bar Association. She has also been honored with the Dole Woman of Achievement Award from the American Red Cross and the Citizen of the Year from the National Association of Social Workers. In addition, she is the recipient of The Daily Record’s Maryland Leadership Award and has been named one of its Top 100 Women in Maryland three times.
Raker is the second woman in the state’s history to serve on the Court of Appeals of Maryland and is recognized as a “trailblazer,” “role model” and “courageous leader on women’s issues.” She has given back to the community as a professor, mentor and community activist. Raker is well-deserving of the Margaret Brent Award as it is the epitome of her professional achievements.