Betty Staton receives Haywood Burns Memorial Award for service to underprivileged communities

April 28, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Former Family Court judge and president of Brooklyn Legal Services, Betty Staton, was honored with the Haywood Burns Memorial Award on April 25 at the City University of New York School of Law Auditorium and Community Room.

The award acknowledges individuals who have made significant contributions to New York, reflecting Dean W. Haywood Burns’ commitment to justice, civil rights and the empowerment of the powerless.

“Her lifelong dedication to providing free legal services to members of her Brooklyn community who desperately need representation embodies the ideals of W. Haywood Burns, this award’s namesake,” said NYSBA President Sherry Levin Wallach.

Sherry Levin Wallach and Sudha Setty.

As a single parent, Staton raised two sons while completing her education at Brooklyn College. She then attended New York University School of Law on a full scholarship. While there, she actively recruited students from historically Black colleges and universities and co-founded what is now the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association, which will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year.

Following law school, Staton spent eight years at Bedford Stuyvesant Community Legal Services, eventually becoming deputy director and director of outreach and education. In 1987, she co-founded the country’s first African American female law firm. She continued as a partner until 1991 when former Mayor David N. Dinkins appointed her to a ten-year term on the Family Court. She was reappointed in 2001 by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and served until her mandatory retirement in 2004.

After retirement, Staton returned to Bedford Stuyvesant Community Legal Services, serving as executive director until the agency merged with what is now Brooklyn Legal Services. She currently serves as the organization’s president, mentoring students and young attorneys. Over the years, Staton has received numerous community and professional awards and remains an active volunteer in various community and professional organizations.

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