Judy Perry Martinez is the first Louisiana attorney in more than 100 years and the first woman from Louisiana to lead the American Bar Association as president. A successful corporate attorney, she’s been a commercial litigator and a pro bono attorney helping the less fortunate.

Now she’s leading the largest voluntary association of attorneys and legal professionals in the world.

Her one-year term will be focused on helping people understand why lawyers should be appreciated and respected rather than the butt of jokes, and showing how they add value to our communities. Though her life’s work has been in corporate offices, she’s taken on pro bono cases.

“Lawyers are essential to the rule of law and democracy,” said Martinez, 62, in a recent interview in her 30th-floor office at Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn in New Orleans.

The Chalmette native joined the firm after graduating from Tulane University Law School in 1982. Colleagues talk about her strong work ethic, commitment and dedication. “Judy never complained, she got it done and she did it well,” said Robert Redfearn, a partner at the firm and her mentor.

She worked at Northrop Grumman 2003-2015, serving as assistant general counsel-litigation before becoming vice president and chief compliance officer in 2011. After retiring, she spent a year as a Harvard University fellow-in-residence and returned to Simon Peragine, where she had worked as a commercial litigator from 1982 to 2003, rising to partner and member of the management committee.

She’s been a pro bono volunteer, visiting the United States-Mexico border twice in the past two years to help asylum-seekers appearing in tent courts in Brownsville, Texas. Martinez has made an impact in Louisiana, too.

Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, who administered Martinez’s oath of office as ABA president, said they got to know each other through work to ensure that courts are accessible for all people. Martinez has had a lengthy career of service. She served on the board of the Innocence Project-New Orleans, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and as an officer of the World Justice Project. She also has served as a Distinguished Access to Justice Pro Bono Fellow for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

We congratulate Martinez on her new role.