Doris L. Sassower

"Where do you go when judges break the law?
You go public!"

Doris L. Sassower, 1997
Attorney Doris Lipson Sassower was honored as a "Giraffe" for her risk-taking civic activism and for founding the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA), a national nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens' organization that is working to reform the way federal, state, and local judges are selected and disciplined. The organization has members in more than 30 states.

Sassower has "stuck her neck out" for decades as a pioneer in the women's movement and for family law reform. But her 35-year career at the bar ended after she brought a lawsuit against the two major political parties for their manipulation of the 1990 judicial elections in New York State's Ninth Judicial District.

As pro bono counsel, she challenged a written judge-trading deal between the political parties, in which the parties agreed to cross-endorse seven judicial candidates over a three-year period, required the resignations of sitting judges to create judicial vacancies, and pledged to split judicial patronage. Her suit also cited the judicial nominating conventions' violation of Election Law quorum, roll call, and other requirements.

Sassower paid a heavy price for her reform advocacy and for championing the public interest by this politically sensitive Election Law case. Within days of her announcement that she would take the case to the highest state court, a New York court suspended her law license — without charges, without a hearing, without findings, without reasons, and without any right of appeal. She has been fighting ever since to regain her right to practice her profession. Her federal civil rights action against the state court judges who suspended her is headed for the US Supreme Court.

Ann Medlock, President of the Giraffe Project, said that her organization was founded 15 years ago, "to overcome apathy and feelings of powerlessness by showing what people with courage and caring can do." In receiving the award, Sassower said, "The Giraffe Award is a powerful symbol that fortifies me in my challenging of ostrich-like 'leaders' who bury their heads in the sand while the rule of law is being obliterated by those who are part of the political power structure. Citizens care about having an honest judiciary, and through CJA are working to make it happen. This award should make politicians realize that reforming the way lawyers become – and remain – judges is a key political issue for 1998."

Doris L. Sassower is Co-Founder and Director of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. ( and a 1997 recipient of the prestigious Certificate of Commendation from the Giraffe Project, a national, nonprofit organization that recognizes heroic individuals who "stick their necks out for the common good."  Ms. Sassower can be reached at  The Giraffe Project ( is headquartered on Whidbey Island, WA and can be reached at


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