Elmer Gertz Human & Civil Rights Award

The Gertz Award recognizes long-standing, continuing and exceptional commitment by an individual or an organization to the protection or advancement of Human Rights.

The Illinois State Bar Association established the Elmer Gertz Award in 2000.  The award is designed to honor often-unsung heroes of the legal community who have shown a continued commitment to preserve and advance human rights. For many years, the award was jointly presented by the ISBA and the Blind Services Association.

Award Winners

  • 2023 - Judge William J. Borah
  • 2022 - Judge Ray Bolden (awarded posthumously)
  • 2021 - Colleen Kilbride
  • 2020 - Gina Arquilla Deboni, Romanucci & Blandin LLC
  • 2019 - Keith Harley, Chicago Legal Clinic
  • 2018 - Fiona McEntee, McEntee Law Group
  • 2017 - The John Marshall Law School’s Human Rights Clinic
  • 2016 - Cindy Buys, Southern Illinois University Law School
  • 2015 - Mary M. McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center
  • 2013 - Jody Raphael, DePaul College of Law
  • 2012 - Judge Martha A. Mills, Cook County Circuit Court
  • 2011-2009 - Award not given
  • 2008 - Prof. Doug Cassel, Notre Dame University School of Law
  • 2007 - R. Eugene Pincham, Retired Justice, Illinois Appellate Court
  • 2006 - Prof. Michael P. Seng, The John Marshall Law School
  • 2005 - Award not given
  • 2004 - Fay Clayton, Chicago
  • 2003 - Prof. Victor J. Stone, University of Illinois  College of Law
  • 2002 - Prof. Ralph Ruebner, The John Marshall Law School
  • 2001 - Gregory A. Adamski, Chicago


The recipient shall have made significant contributions to the cause of Human Rights within the Illinois legal community, its judiciary and/or the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA). The recipient may be a lawyer or non-lawyer or an organization of lawyers or a combination thereof.

For purposes of this award, "Human Rights" shall be construed broadly to include the rights to personal liberty and due process of law; and to freedom of thought, expression, religion, organization, and movement; to freedom from discrimination.

Consideration will be given to efforts to raise awareness of the importance of Human Rights to the legal profession; development of or participation in any innovative or meaningful initiatives or programs related to protecting and improving Human Rights.

Nomination Process

To nominate a person or organization for this award, please attach a letter and any supporting documentation that includes the following information:

1. Name of Nominee

2. Name of nominee's law firm, company or organization

3. Nominee's contact information, including telephone and email address

4. A description of how the nominee has made significant contributions to the protection or advancement of Human Rights.

5. Contact information of the nominator. (Only ISBA members can nominate an individual or organization for this award.)

If you have any questions, please email awards@isba.org.

Deadline for awards submission is March 4, 2024.

Nomination form