Carmen-Nicole Cox, Esquire

2019 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–Carmen-Nicole Cox has been selected to receive the 2019 American Inns of Court Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service. Judge Consuelo M. Callahan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will present the award during the American Inns of Court 2019 Celebration of Excellence at the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on October 26, 2019. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch will host the event.

After launching a career in civil litigation, Cox left private practice in 2015 to pursue her passion: criminal justice reform. She is chief of administration in the legislation office of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Sacramento. “When I use my skills and talents for the benefit of others, I feel that I am playing a small part in facilitating a fundamental premise of our representative democracy—liberty and justice for all,” Cox wrote in a statement to the awards committee. “In my mind, ‘all’ includes marginalized populations, students at Title I schools, women and children, and even felons.”

In her current role, Cox drafts legislative proposals, analyzes pending legislation, negotiates amendments, and provides policy recommendations. As part of her department’s participation in the 2018 Government Alliance on Racial Equity, Cox co-authored a draft action plan to ensure gender and racial equity in the department’s employment practices. She previously served as a deputy legal affairs secretary for Edmund G. Brown, Jr., helping to advance the governor’s historic criminal justice reform agenda by advising him on clemency and parole decisions.

“Ms. Cox is passionate and committed to serving the community in any way she can,” says Shanae Buffington, a past president of the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association. As the current president of the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association, for example, Cox works to advance the social and civil rights of Sacramento residents, especially the African American community. Since 2014, she has volunteered with Operation Protect and Defend, which sends attorneys and judges into high schools to discuss civil and constitutional rights and the importance of civic engagement.

An associate member of the Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, Cox earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Fisk University in 2007 and earned a law degree with great distinction from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in 2011. She will return to McGeorge in 2020 as an adjunct professor teaching a course on race, mass incarceration, and criminal justice.