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Vickrey is honored with access to justice award

Bill Vickrey, who retired last month as administrator of the California court system, is the recipient of a special Benjamin Aranda III Access to Justice Award.

Vickrey
Vickrey

Vickrey’s “commitment and leadership have increased access to justice significantly, benefitting the courts and the public,” said a statement from the Access to Justice Commission, which chooses the recipient. The reward will be presented at the State Bar Annual Meeting this month in Long Beach.

The commission cited Vickrey’s role in implementing a number of court improvements, including:

  • Increased assistance for unrepresented litigants, particularly in the area of family law
  • A court self-help website that includes information in several languages
  • An annual fund to help legal assistance programs
  • Improved qualifications of court interpreters
  • Expanded alternative dispute resolution programs
  • A statewide registry for protective orders in domestic violence cases
  • Specialty courts, such as those relating to domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness and mental health
  • Streamlined court rules and procedures, and
  • Routing more than $70 million in grants to local courts and court-connected programs

Noting the impressive accomplishments of such past Aranda Award recipients as Judges Laurie Zelon, Gordon Baranco, Kathleen O’Leary and Donna Hitchens, Vickrey said, “I am really, really honored and thrilled to be in the company of those folks.” He also said the award has special meaning because Judge Aranda was a member of the Judicial Council whose significant contributions in making the courts accessible to more people promoted the best values of the judiciary.

Vickrey said he hopes his legacy will be that people continue to build on lawyers’ and the courts’ ability to promote equal access in areas from language to breaking down barriers for the poor.

One of the things he is most proud of, he said, is establishing the Center for Family, Children and the Courts that supports programs in collaborative justice, domestic violence, language access, mentally ill court users, services to self-represented litigants, tribal projects, veterans’ courts and other programs that improve practice in family and juvenile law. He also noted that the self-help centers were extremely controversial when first proposed, but he, his staff and others wouldn’t give up, bringing in lawyers and jurists from other states that had similar programs.

All the efforts for greater access are collaborative, he said. “We have both staff in this office and committees of judges and lawyers who lead these efforts. I would like to think I am a contributor to that effort in terms of getting the programs approved in the council, seeking the funding and advocating for them.”

Referring to the long list of improvements in which Vickrey has had a large part, the commission said, “These are significant accomplishments and none of this would have been possible without Bill Vickrey’s executive leadership. He has demonstrated a true commitment to improving access to the judicial system.”