Announcing the 2020 Family Law Awards Recipients

Judicial Officer of the Year: Honorable Susan M. Gill from Kern County

The Judicial Officer of the Year award recognizes excellence on the Family Law bench, with a focus on outstanding service to the practice of family law, career achievements, or a distinguishing singular act or performance of the nominee. Judge Gill exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding judicial officer. Judge Gill has been practicing law since 1983. Through her work for the Center for Judicial Education and Research and other committees and task forces, Judge Gill works tirelessly behind the scenes, making sure litigants are treated fairly across not only in her department but across the state.

Excellence in Family Law: Brenda Joyce Russo, Esq. (posthumously awarded)

The Excellence in Family Law award is to honor and recognize recent notable acts or outstanding service that contributes substantially to the improvement of California Family Law substance or practice. Throughout her career, Ms. Russo advocated tirelessly for children. In 1989, she cofounded Legal Services for Children in Solano County, a law practice focused on children in the juvenile dependency system. In 1994, she cofounded a second law practice focusing on family law. Ms. Russo specialized in custody issues, advocating for alternative dispute resolution so that families and especially children would be less impacted by the trauma of divorce. Ms. Russo is missed by those who knew and worked with her in the family law community.

Court Staff Award:

The Court Staff Award is to honor and recognize sustained superior performance or extraordinary efforts in the recipients’ performance of his or her work with the Family Law courts. This year, FLEXCOM is proud to present this award to two court staff members.

Jennifer Connelly from Solano County

Jennifer Connelly has been with the Solano County court for five years and is now serving as the courtroom clerk in Department 3. While serving in Judge Gizzi’s courtroom, she has served as an invaluable resource to him but also to the family law litigants passing through the courtroom. Given the emotionally charged nature of family law, Ms. Connelly always looks for ways to resolve issues for parties – by answering questions, having forms at the ready, preparing orders, and filing things right away, saving time and stress for the litigants.

Trina Blackshire from Alameda County

Trina Blackshire has been working for the courts since the late 1990s. Ms. Blackshire works with DCSS litigants, ensures the court meets the DCSS grant requirements, and performs many other administrative duties, essentially becoming the DCSS point person. She also works as a liaison between the court staff and litigants by assisting the bench and litigants in any way she can – from reviewing matters for the bench officers to following up with individual litigants regarding their matters. Ms. Blackshire does whatever is needed to walk a litigant through the court system, exemplifying what she believes the court system should be.