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Alumnae Achievement Awards 2000

Nora Manella ’72
U.S. District Court Judge

Manella '72

Nora Manella ’72 is U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, the largest federal court district in the United States. Named among the "50 Most Influential Women Lawyers" by the National Law Journal, Manella has also led one of the busiest and most prestigious US Attorney's offices in the country.

Training and Early Years
An Italian major at Wellesley, Manella graduated from the University of Southern California Law Center in 1975, where she was an editor of the Law Review.

After clerking for Judge John Minor Wisdom at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Manella served as legal counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, focusing on the rights of state prisoners.

From 1978 to 1982, she practiced corporate civil litigation with O'Melveny & Myers - first in Washington, D.C., then in Los Angeles.

Federal Prosecutor and Judge
In 1982, Manella became Assistant US Attorney in the Central District of California's Criminal Division, taking over the Criminal Appeals Department in 1988.

As a federal prosecutor, Manella obtained convictions in violent crimes, international narcotics trafficking, and tax and commodities fraud. One of her most celebrated successes was the conviction of antiwar activist Katya Komisaruk for smashing a navigational computer at the Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara.

In 1990, Manella was appointed to the Municipal Court, which she left in 1992 upon her elevation to the Superior Court. She presided over 'People v. Robinson', a 30-year-old murder case profiled in CBS' "60 Minutes" and authored over 20 opinions while sitting by designation on the State Court of Appeal.

In 1993, at the recommendation of Senator Diane Feinstein, President Clinton nominated Manella for US Attorney. She was confirmed later that year.

Famous Cases
As US Attorney, Manella prosecuted some of the decade's most notorious cases, gaining verdicts against two sitting congressmen, Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington III and Representative Walter R. Tucker III, nearly two dozen members of the Mexican Mafia, and over twenty bankers, banks, and narcotics money launderers in the largest money laundering case brought in the history of the country.

Manella began her term as US District Judge in early 1999. She is the 1995 recipient of the Women Lawyers of Los Angeles' Ernestine Stahlhut Award for her "significant contributions to the cause of justice," and has been elected to the American Law Institute. She is a frequent speaker at federal symposia across the country.


For more information about the Alumnae Achievement Awards, please contact us by email at specialprograms@alum.wellesley.edu or call the Alumnae Association at 781-283-2331.