TBA Award recognizes Claudia Haltom for program to help at-risk women
NASHVILLE, June 29, 2015 – Memphis lawyer and former juvenile court judge Claudia Swafford Haltom was presented the 2015 William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award at the Tennessee Bar Association’s annual meeting in Memphis this month.
Given annually by the TBA Young Lawyers Division Fellows, the award honors a lawyer who has given outstanding service to the legal profession, the legal system and their community. Haltom was specifically recognized for her service on the bench and establishing The Step Ahead Foundation to help Shelby County women improve their quality of life.
Haltom sat on the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court for 17 years, during which time she witnessed firsthand an epidemic of unintended pregnancies and a host of accompanying social problems. Most of the teen mothers she encountered had hopes for the future but were not emotionally, mentally or financially prepared to be a parent. She found that these situations also perpetuated cycles of poverty and created barriers to employment.
After retiring from the court, Haltom decided to do something about the situation. In 2011, she founded A Step Ahead Foundation to improve educational, economic and health outcomes for women and their children. Modeled on a similar program at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, the foundation provides free, long-term, reversible birth control so women can prevent unplanned pregnancies, maintain meaningful employment and better serve their families. Those who participate in the program also have opportunities to improve their overall physical and psychological health.
The program has had such a positive impact in Memphis that a similar foundation has been established in Chattanooga and several other Tennessee cities are looking at duplicating the concept.
Haltom earned her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1980. She served as a law clerk for Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Charles Nearn, as an assistant county attorney, and as an attorney for the Shelby County Health Department and school system. As a judge, Haltom presided over cases involving custody, visitation, paternity and child support matters as well as juvenile cases. She also authored The Single Parent Referee Workbook to help single parents deal with common legal issues as well as life challenges.
The Leech Award is named for former Attorney General William M. Leech and was given to him posthumously in 1997. The TBA Young Lawyers Division Fellows was founded to promote the objectives of the Young Lawyers Division and to encourage young lawyers to be active in the TBA. Members are inducted each year on the basis of their participation with, or support of, the Young Lawyers Division.
The 2015 Tennessee Bar Association Annual Convention was held in conjunction with several other legal organizations, including the Tennessee Judicial Conference, the Tennessee Association for Justice (TAJ) and the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women (TLAW). This joint meeting allows legal groups in the state to address common issues and concerns and offers opportunities for additional education, long-range planning, and recognition of attorneys who have performed outstanding legal work and community service.