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Pictured from the Infinity Project are, left to right, Lola Velaquez-Aguilu (past president), Jeannine
Lee (past president), Vildan Teske (past president), Judge Mary Vasaly (founder and past president),
Debra Fitzpatrick (executive director) and Lisa Montpetit Brabbit (founder and past president).
Pictured from the Infinity Project are, left to right, Lola Velaquez-Aguilu (past president), Jeannine Lee (past president), Vildan Teske (past president), Judge Mary Vasaly (founder and past president), Debra Fitzpatrick (executive director) and Lisa Montpetit Brabbit (founder and past president).

2019 Diversity & Inclusion: The Infinity Project

As part of the American Bar Association’s Women Trailblazers in the Law Project, Lisa Montpetit Brabbit of the University of St. Thomas School of Law was collecting an oral history from Judge Diana Murphy, the first female judge on the 8th Circuit bench. Brabbit remembers being surprised when Judge Murphy was reflecting on the fact that she was the only female 8th Circuit judge — since 1891. (To date, only one other woman has been appointed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Jane Kelly, and since Judge Murphy’s passing in May 2018, the circuit is back to one.)

That oral history was one of the catalysts for the formation in 2006 of the Infinity Project, an organization with the mission to increase the gender diversity of the state and federal bench, with a focus on the 8th Circuit.

The Infinity Project was founded by Brabbit, Marie Failinger (Mitchell Hamline School of Law), Sally Kenney (now with Tulane University) and Judge Mary Vasaly (Hennepin County District Court). Sybil Dunlop (Greene Espel) serves as its current president, and over 20 lawyers and judges serve on its board.

The Infinity Project seeks to advance its mission by:

  • Creating public awareness for the lack of and importance of gender equity on the bench and the availability of qualified women candidates.
  • Engaging senators and other decision-makers on the issues of gender equity and the need for appointment of women to the state and federal bench within the 8th Circuit region.
  • Serving as a clearinghouse for women who have indicated an interest in serving on the state or federal bench within the 8th Circuit region.

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