The Alabama State Bar Women’s Section has recognized Judge Sharon Gilbert Yates as this year’s recipient of the Maud McLure Kelly Award. Named after the first woman to practice law in Alabama, the award honors one female attorney for her outstanding representation of the legal profession within the state of Alabama. Some of the past recipients of this award include Hon. Janie L. Shores, Marjorie Fine Knowles, Mary Lee Stapp and Ernestine S. Sapp.
The Maud McLure Kelly Award celebrates female lawyers with a dedication to serving the public good through the legal field. Maud Kelly, not unlike Judge Yates, was fascinated by the practice of law from a very young age and managed to break the glass ceiling for women in Alabama by becoming the first woman to be recognized as a lawyer within the state. Despite having to overcome a society that excluded women from many professions, Kelly utilized her own brilliance and legal training to accomplish numerous groundbreaking contributions to the field of law and was among the first women to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court.
Judge Yates received her J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1982 while working for the Alabama Supreme Court, starting as a Summer Clerk for Chief Justice C.C. “Bo” Torbert and working her way to a position as Staff Attorney under Associate Justice Sam Beatty. Judge Yates also has the unique recognition of being named the first female elected to serve as a Presiding Judge in the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Her extensive knowledge of the law is still evident today in her role as an Associate Professor at the Jones School of Law, where she teaches subjects ranging from Criminal Law and Appellate Advocacy to Evidence and Professional Responsibility.
Along with her professional accolades, Judge Yates is an accomplished public speaker, having given seminars and CLE presentations on several important legal matters over the course of her legal career. She has served on a number of community service boards, such as the Child Protect Board of Directors, National Conference for Women in Politics, the Children’s Justice Task Force and the Christian Women’s Leadership Advisory Board at Samford University.
Greg Allen, the Lead Products Liability lawyer at Beasley Allen, believes that Judge Yates earned his nomination for the Maud McLure Kelly Award because of her monumental service to the practice of law in Alabama. Greg had this to say:
I could think of no one more deserving than Sharon Yates. Sharon was the first female elected to the Court of Civil Appeals and is also the first female Presiding Judge of that court. She has also excelled as an attorney in private practice. She was a district court judge for a period of time and was an excellent judge and she now is a professor at Jones Law School. I have no doubt she will continue to have a positive impact on the practice of law through her outstanding work.
I share Greg’s assessment concerning Sharon Yates. She truly deserves the honor bestowed on her and I am very proud to say that she has been my longtime friend. Sharon was a great judge, a great teacher and is an even better person.
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