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Remembering Judge Noël Kramer: Advocate for Fairness and Equality in the Courts

By Jeffery Leon

June 8, 2018

Noël Anketell Kramer
Photo Courtesy of the D.C. Courts

The Washington, D.C., legal community is mourning the loss of Judge Noël Anketell Kramer, a respected figure on the bench who served on both the D.C. Court of Appeals and the D.C. Superior Court. Judge Kramer passed away on May 31 at the age of 72.

Born and raised in Bay City, Michigan, Kramer attended Vassar College and obtained her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1971. Shortly after, she joined the firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering LLP, serving as an associate there before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in 1976. From 1980 to 1982, she served as chief of the Grand Jury Section, then joined the Fraud Section where she served for the next two years.

In 1984 Kramer was appointed to the D.C. Superior Court, where she would serve for the next two decades. During her time on the Superior Court, she handled hundreds of cases and issued numerous opinions on civil, criminal, and family law.

Judge Kramer was the deputy presiding judge of the Superior Court’s Criminal Division from 1999 to 2003, and its presiding judge from 2002 to 2005.

“Noël Kramer was not just an intelligent and very capable judge, she was a person who cared about those who appeared before her and about her community,” said D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert E. Morin. “Her contributions to the Superior Court including, among others, the establishment of the first Community Court and her criminal justice reforms ensuring indigent access to competent legal assistance, fundamentally improved the direction of the court and the city’s justice system for the better. She will be missed by her colleagues on both courts.”

In 2005 Kramer was appointed by President George W. Bush as associate judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, where she would serve until her retirement in 2011.

“I was extremely saddened by Judge Kramer’s passing. She was a dear friend of mine, a wonderful colleague, and a brilliant jurist,” said D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. “She was a role model for women lawyers and leaders. Most of all, I will remember her infectious laughter and her tremendous kindness to everyone she met.”

Kramer was a steadfast advocate for women in the legal profession. She was president of the National Association of Women Judges and was a member of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the Greater Washington Area Chapter of the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association, and the Charlotte E. Ray American Inn of Court.

Judge Kramer made lasting impacts on the law in the District of Columbia and beyond. In 2002 she helped to establish and presided the East of the River Community Court, which handles misdemeanor cases except those involving domestic violence, broadening access to justice for underserved neighborhoods and reducing recidivism.

Around this time, Judge Kramer also chaired a committee that delivered new standards for appointing attorneys for indigent defendants in Superior Court, earning her the Superior Court Medal of Excellence.