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Mecklenburg Family Court administrator named 2014 diversity champion

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

The Mecklenburg County Bar will honor Elisa Chinn-Gary with the 2014 Julius L. Chambers Diversity Champion Award on Feb. 27 at the McMillan Fellowship Fund Dinner, according to a release from the Mecklenburg County Bar.

The award is presented to an individual who embodies high ethical standards, unquestioned integrity and consistent competence. The person also champions diversity in the legal profession.

Chinn-Gary is Mecklenburg County’s Family Court administrator. She has also improved Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, which is a collaboration of judicial officials, system experts, service providers and community partners that works to lessen the effect of implicit bias and institutional racism on children and families, according to the release.

The program’s vision is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg community where the makeup and outcomes of juvenile courts cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity.

Under Chinn-Gary’s leadership, the program has partnered with agencies such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Guardian Ad Litem program and The Council for Children’s Rights to train more than 200 leaders in workshops titled “Dismantling Racism,” the release said.

The series was so successful that the stakeholders asked for the series to be continued. And Chief Rodney Monroe asked that all CMPD school resource officers receive the training, according to the release.

Through the program, Chinn-Gary partnered with CMS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to teach CMS students about the history of racism in the country.

She also worked with Mecklenburg County judges and advocates to implement a series of roundtable discussions among school leaders, law enforcement, judges, attorneys, advocates and juvenile probation officials to discuss school discipline and court referral policies. The goal was to reduce suspension rates, impact dropout and graduation rates and limit the number of juvenile delinquency petitions.

Chinn-Gary earned a master of social work and a doctorate of law from UNC Chapel Hill and was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 1999. She was the recipient of the 2010 Raising the Bar Award and was honored by the Judiciary and Justice Initiatives for her excellence in court administration, according to the release.

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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