PORTLAND – Leigh Ingalls Saufley, the first female chief justice of Maine’s highest court, has been selected the 2013 winner of the Sampson Center Catalyst for Change Award. She becomes the seventh winner of the annual honor given by the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine at the University of Southern Maine.
Each October the Center, which promotes diversity and civil rights through research, education and outreach, presents the prestigious Catalyst for Change Award, which commemorates the life, work and values of Jean Byers Sampson. This year’s dinner will be held 5:30 p.m., Thursday, October 17, at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland. To reserve tickets, see Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine or call Susie Bock at 780-4269.
Chief Justice Saufley helped refocus the state’s court system to better deal with domestic violence and family law, was instrumental in strengthening the special adult and juvenile drug courts, and led the court into committing timely access to interpreters so that people with limited English will have equal access to the law.
A native of South Portland and mother of two, Chief Justice Saufley also pushed the legislature to establish a separate business court and increase the number of judges. And she co-chairs the Juvenile Justice Task Force, which is a partnership of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, Maine’s Court System and the University of Maine Law School.
Previous Sampson Center Catalyst for Change Award winners were Rabbi Harry Sky, Dale McCormick, Sallie Chandler, Allen Sockabasin, Howard Solomon and Rita Kissen. In 2010, Gerald Talbot was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Jean Byers Center of Diversity in Maine, part of Special Collections at the Glickman Family Library at the University of Southern Maine, is the home of three collections representing the African American, Jewish and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in Maine.
The Center was named for Jean Byers Sampson to honor her life-long work for diversity, civil rights and liberties, and academic freedom. Before Sampson moved to Maine in 1952, she wrote a report on African Americans in the military that helped lead to the desegregation of the armed forces. She helped found the Central Maine branch of the NAACP in Lewiston, where she served as president during the 1960s; served on the Maine Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; was executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union in the late seventies; and served on the University of Maine’s Board of Trustees where, as chair, she led the Board to support a homosexual conference at the University and defy the governor when he demanded the Board’s resignation.