"I consider myself really, really lucky to have been able to work in work that I love." From lawyer and Juvenile Court Master to presiding over the Family Drug and Mental Health Courts, Judge Deborah Schumacher is retired now, but definitely made an impact in Northern Nevada, both on and off the bench. "Nevada has actually been extremely good to me."
Married to her husband for more than 30 years, the Notre Dame Law School grad started at the McDonald Carano Wilson Law Firm in Reno; she was the second woman named Partner. At the time, she also worked part-time as court master, "then ultimately appointed by Governor (Bob) Miller when Department 5 became open," she recalls. Judge Schumacher was appointed to the Family Division of the Second Judicial Court Bench. It proved to be an opportunity to advocate for children, which she longed to have. "My eldest daughter is adopted and I became really interested in that whole process."Never anticipating she could get pregnant, and after adopting, the judge was pleasantly surprised it happened not once, but twice. The mother of three now also has a precious granddaughter. "She's perfectly content with a sketch pad and markers and is a little distressed that not every picture hangs at our house,” the judge laughs.
The judge spent most of her judicial career working with foster children. Her proudest accomplishment was her work as Lead Judge of the Model Court Project, which is a nationwide effort to improve court handling of foster children's cases. The judge found the most pleasure on National Adoption Day when thousands of kids were united with permanent families in courts around the country. During her last event as sitting judge, she was presented with a personalized star and quilt - just like the children. But equally special is a picture she treasures; snapped during a conversation she had with a young girl in her courtroom. "I come down and greet every one of the children on adoption day, but this particular picture was snapped when this little girl was actually thanking me for helping her have a permanent family."
Judge Schumacher is also honored to have been appointed by Senator Harry Reid to the Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The committee meets quarterly in Washington, D.C. and until recently was chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder. "Nine of us to be a sounding board. The sounding board to say that doesn't work in the real world and here's why."
Although she retired in January, the senior judge still serves in specialty courts. It is a way of giving back to a community, she says, that served her well. "It's a powerful role. It has been. And I'm grateful to have been able to do it." The Northern Nevada Women Lawyer's Association named Judge Schumacher the 2015 Lawyer of the Year. Next week she will also be inducted into the Nevada Women's Fund Hall of Fame. Judge Schumacher will receive this honor at the annual Salute to Women of Achievement event, May 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the JA Nugget in Sparks.