Betty Weinberg Ellerin was born in the Bronx. After graduating as valedictorian from James Monroe High School in 1946, she went on to Indiana University. After her freshman year, she transferred to New York University under its combined college law program, receiving her B.A. in 1950, and her LL.B. in 1952, after which she joined a maritime law firm in New York City.
In 1955, Justice Ellerin began her career with the courts, serving as Law Secretary to various judges over the next 21 years, during which time she was the first woman elected as president of the Law Secretaries and Law Assistants Association. After her election to the Civil Court, she was assigned to sit in the New York County Criminal Court. She became an Acting Supreme Court Justice in 1978 and was elected as a Justice of the Supreme Court in November 1979. After serving successfully as Judge in Charge of a complex of judges assigned to deal with thousands of cases involving the City of New York, many of which were over 20 years old, in 1982, Chief Judge Lawrence Cooke appointed her as Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts, with administrative responsibility for the operation of all trial courts within the City. She was the first woman appointed to that position.
In 1985, Governor Mario Cuomo appointed her as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department -- again, the first woman appointed to that position. She celebrated another "first" when Governor George Pataki appointed her as the first female Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department. Although in that position for only one year because of mandatory age limits, Justice Ellerin remained as an Additional Justice until her retirement from the bench in 2005.
In 2006, she joined the law firm of Alston & Bird as Senior Counsel to the Litigation and Trial Practice Group. At the same time, she continued her activities in many bar groups and court committees. She is currently Chair of the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts; Chair of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board; Vice Chair of the Committee on Character and Fitness of the Appellate Division, First Department; Honorary Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics; a founder and director of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York; past President of the New York Women’s Bar Association; past President of the National Association of Women Judges and was a Chair of its National Task Force on Gender Bias in the Courts for many years. Justice Ellerin is a Trustee Associate of New York University. She is also a panelist with JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation).
Over the years, Justice Ellerin has received a plethora of professional awards, including the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, the New York Law Journal Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ruth G. Shapiro Award from the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association Law Day Award, the Louis J. Capozzoli Gavel Award, the Edith I. Spivak Award from the New York County Lawyers Association, the National Association of Women Judges Judge of the Year Award in 2011. The Women’s Bar of the State of New York established the Betty Weinberg Ellerin Mentoring Award on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary and bestowed the inaugural award on her in recognition of her continued support and assistance in advancing the careers of innumerable women judges and lawyers. Justice Ellerin has long been a proponent of children’s centers in courthouses. In 2021, the Office of Court Administration honored Justice Ellerin by naming the newly restored children’s center at the 111 Centre Street Courthouse for her. In addition to various other awards from the University, on April 1, 2022, she will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NYU Alumni Association.
Chair, New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts