Meet the Honorees

Melanie Bronfin, J.D. is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, which is a non-partisan, nonprofit that is a source of data, research and information for policymakers, stakeholders and the public at large on issues related to young children in Louisiana. Since 2012, she has been at the forefront of policy and advocacy around the implementation of the Early Childhood Education Act, Act 3 of the 2012 Legislative Session, which mandated an overhaul of the entire early care and education system in Louisiana, including child care, Head Start and Pre-K programs statewide, and the over 60,000 young children served by them. This has involved working closely with the Department of Education, the state board of education, the Legislature and the Governor’s office to increase access to quality early care and education for children in need in our state. Ms. Bronfin is a lifelong resident of Louisiana. Her husband, Daniel Bronfin M.D., is a pediatrician at Ochsner Health System, and they have two adult sons.

Norris Henderson is the founder and executive director of VOTE (Voice of the Experienced). Having been wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years, Norris uses his firsthand experiences of the racism and brutality of the criminal justice system to address the needs of communities of color across Louisiana and beyond. He is a former Soros Justice Fellow, and has made a fundamental impact on public policy and discourse about police accountability, public defense for poor and working-class people, and reforming of the notorious Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). Norris can be found speaking on behalf of underserved communities in New Orleans or acting as a general liaison to other community organizations in the city, state and nation. Since his release in 2003, Norris has applied his 27 years of self-taught legal expertise and community organizing skills to a number of leadership positions, including Co-Director of Safe Streets/Strong Communities and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Louisiana Justice Coalition. Norris serves on a number of organizations’ Board of Directors including the Forward Justice of North Carolina and Common Justice of New York and Families and Friends of Louisiana Incarcerated Children.

Judge Miriam Waltzer was the first female judge to be elected to the New Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and the second woman elected to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. As a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany, Waltzer survived the Holocaust hidden in a convent. After coming to the United States, she married civil rights attorney, Bruce Waltzer, and pursued a career in justice, earning a law degree from Loyola University, where she was one of just five women in her law-school class. First elected to the criminal district court in 1982, she moved to the court of appeals in 1992. In her lifelong work as a judge, she provided opinions and dissents that protected the welfare of youth victims, forced male judges to honor federal child support requirements and conducted a statewide survey on the treatment of women in the courts, revealing widespread discrimination against female lawyers and expert witnesses. She retired in 2002 and relocated to Dallas during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Waltzer has continued to speak out for young people, advocating for the elimination of sentencing children to die in prison and in 2018, she received the prestigious NCJW President’s award for leading a coalition that registered more than 2,600 new voters. According to a Loyola biography, Waltzer said her proudest achievement was winning freedom for a family of Russian Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate. Waltzer continues to serve as a volunteer and educator.