Distinguished Service Awards

Six awards honor individuals who exemplify the strengths of leadership that have improved the administration of justice statewide. 

Honorees are recognized for:

  • Advancement of Judicial Council goals: access, fairness, and diversity; independence and accountability; modernization of management and administration; quality of justice and service to the public; education for branchwide professional excellence; and branchwide infrastructure for service excellence.
  • Contributions to leadership in statewide court administration.
  • Personal dedication and/or a willingness to take risks to achieve goals.
  • Overcoming challenges or limitations.

Distinguished Service Award recipients 1993–2014

The Aranda Access to Justice Award, presented in partnership with the State Bar, and the California Judges Association in association with the California Commission on Access to Justice, is awarded alongside the Distinguished Service Awards.

2014 Award Recipients:

Amicus Curiae Award: Mr. Ralph J. Shapiro

The Amicus Curiae Award honors individuals other than members of the judiciary for their outstanding contributions to the courts of California

Ralph J. Shapiro, attorney, businessman, and philanthropist, was honored for his support of the California judicial branch, most notably through his public-spirited establishment and support of the Administration of Justice Fund.

The fund allows civic-minded individuals or groups to make monetary donations that assist the Judicial Council in conducting outreach activities, events, or programs that support judicial branch goals, but for which state funds cannot be used or are not readily available. 

Mr. Shapiro suggested the fund in 2002, and supported its establishment through the California State Controller’s Office. Mr. Shapiro and his wife, Shirley, were the first to make a contribution and have continued over the years to generously support the fund. The fund is held by the State Treasurer and disbursed by the Judicial Council’s Administrative Director on activities that build relationships with justice partners, recognize individual accomplishments in improving the justice system, and further education and research to improve the courts. 

Since 2002, the fund has supported numerous program and activity needs that may otherwise have gone unmet, particularly given the challenging fiscal environment in the judicial branch over the last several years. Examples include the Chief Justice’s Civic Learning initiatives, Law Day commemorations, an annual First Amendment cartoon contest for schoolchildren conducted in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, stakeholder outreach activities and legislative visits, support for  judicial interns, and facilitation of national and international justice system visitor programs fostering information-sharing for justice system reform.

The Shapiros’ philanthropic efforts extend to many organizations that support human rights, children’s health, environmental issues, and the arts. For his enduring support of his alma mater, UCLA, Mr. Shapiro was named 1983 Alumnus of the Year by the UCLA School of Law and was recently named among “100 Inspirational Alumni” by UCLA’s Andersen School of Management.

Justice for Children & Families Award: Judge Michael Nash

The Richard D. Huffman Justice for Children & Families Award honors individuals for significant contributions to advancing justice for children and families in California.


Judge Michael Nash, the longest-serving presiding judge of the Juvenile Court in Los Angeles Superior Court, was honored for his numerous innovations and leadership that have profoundly improved court procedures and services involving children and families, in California and throughout the nation.

Early in his tenure as a juvenile court judge, Judge Nash created Adoption Saturdays, holding the first such event in 1998. Since then, more than 10,000 foster children in Los Angeles have had their adoptions completed in Saturday court hearings. The program has since been adopted in 50 states, leading to a National Adoption Day the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Judge Nash helped establish juvenile mental health and drug courts in Los Angeles and fostered collaborative approaches between delinquency and dependency courts. He also developed protocols and procedures to oversee the administration of psychotropic medications for children and youth under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts at the local, state, and national levels.

Long a champion of the legal recognition of children in dependency and delinquency cases, he chaired the Judicial Council’s Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, where he led development of Rules of Court that established standards for representation of children in juvenile proceedings. Statewide adoption of the standards has helped reduce the number of children in out-of-home foster care by nearly half.

Judge Nash has also been a national leader in encouraging the Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) model, in which trained community volunteers work directly with children in foster care, providing a stable relationship with a caring adult and serving as the judge’s “eyes and ears.” The Los Angles CASA program is highly successful, and Judge Nash was named Judge of the Year by the National CASA Association in 2006.

Among Judge Nash’s innumerable contributions to statewide judicial administration, he has served as a past member of the Judicial Council and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care. He is also a past Chair of the Juvenile Court Judges of California, Treasurer of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and a member of the California Child Welfare Council. From 2012–2013, he served as president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He was named 1997 Juvenile Court Judge of the Year by the Juvenile Court Judges of California.

Judge Nash, who has announced plans to retire after this year, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1985 and elevated to the Superior Court in 1989. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Attorney General’s Office from 1974-1985. In the early 1980s, he co-prosecuted the Hillside Strangler case, the longest successful criminal prosecution in U.S. history. 

Excellence in Judicial Education Award: Justice Carol A. Corrigan and Justice Mark B. Simons

Excellence in Judicial Education Award honors individuals or faculty teams for their exceptional contributions to teaching and judicial education in California.

2014 Recipients:

Hon. Carol A. Corrigan
Associate Justice, California Supreme Court

Hon. Mark B. Simons
Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal,
First Appellate District, Division Five

Justice Carol A. Corrigan and Justice Mark Simons were honored for their many years of contributions to judicial education, and in particular their decades-long partnership as a faculty team. Scores of judges have benefitted from their team-taught evidence course at the Center for Judiciary Education and Research’s (CJER) Judicial College. The course is considered the gem of the program.

Both jurists are outstanding legal and judicial educators who have committed their time, talent, and expertise as faculty within the judicial branch, at law schools, and through various national educational organizations for decades.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Carol Corrigan has been a judicial and legal educator since the 1980s. She has served as an adjunct faculty member at the law schools of U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Hastings, the University of San Francisco, and the University of Puget Sound. She has also served as CJER faculty over a similar length of time. From 1994-1997, she also served on CJER’s Governing Board.

Also active in judicial branch leadership, Justice Corrigan served on the Judicial Council from 1997 to 2001, and was named Jurist of the Year in 2003. From 1997 to 2005, she chaired the Judicial Council Task Force on Jury Instructions. Recently, the Chief Justice appointed Justice Corrigan to chair the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System, which will study and make recommendations to improve the state’s court operations and accessibility.

Associate Justice Mark Simons, of the First District Court of Appeal, Division 5, has had a similar noteworthy career as a legal and judicial educator. Justice Simons is best known as the author of the California Evidence Manual, the pre-eminent treatise on evidence in California. He is also the author of California Preliminary Examinations (Lexis).

Justice Simons has served as a lecturer at the law schools of U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Hastings, and as faculty for countless CJER programs since the 1980s. From 1990–1994, he served on CJER’s New Judge Education Planning Committee, and chaired that committee from 1994 –1996.  In 1995 and 1996, he also served as dean of the B.E. Witkin Judicial College, which annually educates California’s new judges. He received the Bernard Jefferson Award for distinguished service in judicial education in 2000 and 2010. 


Leadership in Judicial Administration Award, Mr. Curt Soderlund

The Leadership in Judicial Administration Award honors individuals in judicial administration for significant statewide contributions to and leadership in their profession.

Curt Soderlund, Chief Administrative Officer for the Judicial Council, was honored for his leadership contributions in statewide court administration.

As a member of the Judicial Council’s executive leadership team, Mr. Soderlund oversees service areas that represent the backbone of judicial administration, including fiscal, technology, human resources, and facilities management. His in-depth knowledge, collaborative approach, and tireless efforts on behalf of the court system have helped strengthen trust and collaboration with trial court leadership and executive branch partners in improving judicial administration statewide.

Since joining the Judicial Council staff in 2006, Mr. Soderlund has led statewide implementation of common systems and related services supporting fiscal operations and human resources management in California’s trial courts. The Phoenix financial system now serves all 58 trial courts, while the Phoenix human resources/payroll system currently serves 10 trial courts, with further implementation delayed by the judicial branch budget crisis. Mr. Soderlund has continued to guide and facilitate rollout of these systems, finding and managing resources to bring additional courts onto the systems.

Mr. Soderlund also supports the Judicial Council Technology Committee in its development of a strategic and operational technology plan for the branch, as well as the council’s Court-Ordered Debt Task Force. Under his guidance, staff developed a first-of-its-kind partnership with the State Controller’s office, to promote uniformity among the many entities—including courts, counties, cities, universities, and parking authorities—who collect criminal and traffic-related fees imposed under Penal Code section 1463.02.

Prior to his current appointment, Mr. Soderlund served as Interim Chief Deputy Director for eight months. He previously served as Director of the council’s Trial Court Administrative Services Division since 2008 and before that served as the Assistant Regional Administrative Director for the Northern/Central Regional Office. He joined the Judicial Council staff in 2006 from the Superior Court of Sacramento County, where he served as Chief Deputy Executive Officer for approximately five years.
Mr. Soderlund brings to the position more than 38 years of government leadership experience, including almost 12 years with the judicial branch and 26 years with the executive branch, where he served in the Energy Commission, the Department of General Services, Housing and Community Development, and the Crime Victims and Government Compensation Board.

Defender of Justice Award: Bench-Bar Coalition, Open Courts Coalition, and State Bar of California

Defender of Justice Award honors entities or individuals from federal, state, and local government for significant contributions to advancing equal access to fair and consistent justice in California.

The Bench-Bar Coalition, Open Courts Coalition, and State Bar of California were honored for their leadership and unprecedented response to the funding crisis in the California court system. The judicial branch has endured more than $1 billion in budget reductions over the last five years, requiring courts to close courthouses and courtrooms, slash public services, and delay case processing. These three entities have tirelessly and effectively championed for equal access to justice, focusing attention on the need for reinvestment in the courts.

Members of these three groups have volunteered thousands of hours to advocacy and outreach efforts that have helped the California judicial branch end years of budget reductions and begin critical reinvestments that will help restore court services, operations, and infrastructure. Their members have responded to urgent calls for action on budget and policy matters, contributed personal resources and innovative ideas to outreach campaigns, and have sponsored educational and professional development activities on issues related to the judicial system. Their many efforts have heightened public awareness and increased legislative attention and understanding of the judicial branch’s unique challenges and needs.

Bench-Bar Coalition (BBC): Formed in 1993, this coalition of judges, state, local and specialty bars, legal services organizations, and other statewide partners lies that the heart of the judicial branch’s stakeholder advocacy program. Securing adequate and stable funding for California’s trial courts has been a primary focus of the BBC. Since 2008, the BBC has made more than 900 visits to the State Capitol as well as district legislative and executive branch offices to advocate on behalf of the courts.

Open Courts Coalition: This coalition was formed in 2011 as the brainchild of its cofounders, Paul Kiesel, partner, Kiesel Law LLP, and Niall McCarthy, principal, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, who have joined forces with members of the private and public sectors to steadfastly call for a renewed commitment to the courts. The coalition has conducted numerous outreach campaigns in person, on the telephone, and online, to educate the public as well as decision-makers in all three branches of government on the dire impacts of budget cuts to the judicial branch, and the importance of an adequately funded court system for our democracy, for well-being of residents, and for the state’s business and economic health.

State Bar of California: Through the leadership of successive State Bar presidents, the courts have benefited from renewed focus on advocacy by legal practitioners throughout the state. By identifying adequate funding of the courts as a high priority, State Bar leaders have rallied members to come to the aid of the courts and to speak out on what has increasingly become a civil rights issue—timely and equitable access to justice.

Award for Judicial Excellence: Justice Tricia A. Bigelow

The Award for Judicial Excellence honors members of the judiciary for their extraordinary dedication to the highest principles of the administration of justice statewide.

Presiding Justice Tricia Bigelow, of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Eight in Los Angeles, was honored for her many contributions to the education of judges and attorneys.

A frequent lecturer, presenter, and prolific writer, she educates judges and lawyers on felony sentencing, civil and criminal evidence, sex crimes, judicial ethics and fairness, jury instructions and criminal trials. She has co-authored three books for The Rutter Group: California Three Strikes Sentencing, Sex Crimes: California Law and Procedure, and most recently, and California Felony Sentencing.

From 2006 to 2008, she served as dean of the annual Judicial College, which educates all newly appointed judges in California, for the Center for Judiciary Education and Research (CJER). She continues to serve as Judicial College faculty.

Justice Bigelow is also active in branch leadership as the current chair of the Judicial Council’s Criminal Law Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the council for improving the administration of justice in criminal proceedings. In the past, she has chaired criminal law education committees for both CJER and for the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Justice Bigelow has served as Presiding Justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Eight in Los Angeles since February 2010. Before that, she served as an associate justice in the same division. Before her elevation to the Court of Appeal in 2008, she served for 13 years as a trial judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and Municipal Court. Her judicial experience included both complex civil litigation and long-cause criminal trials.

The founding co-president of the Los Angeles Criminal Law Inns of Court (2002-2005), she was also member of the Los Angeles Superior Court Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, CALJIC, (1998 to 2005), which created the standardized criminal law jury instructions for the state. Before her appointment to the bench, she was a California deputy attorney general and was cross-designated as both a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney and an Assistant United States Attorney. 

Aranda Access to Justice Award: Commissioner Sue Alexander

Awarded by the California State Bar, the Judicial Council, the California Judges Association, and the California Commission on Access to Justice.

The Access to Justice Award honors judicial officers who have shown a long-term commitment to improving access to our courts, particularly for the poor and those of moderate means.

Commissioner Sue Alexander was honored for her innovative work and dedicated leadership in family law, both within the Superior Court of Alameda County and through numerous statewide advisory and leadership positions. California Bar Journal article

Commissioner Alexander, who currently serves as advisory member of the Judicial Council, has served as a member of the council’s Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, the Elkins Family Law Task Force as well as the task force implementing its recommendations, and the Family Law Curriculum Committee for CJER, and has taught numerous family law programs through CJER and other groups. For CJER, she developed workshops around ethics and issues with self-represented litigants as well as bias training for new family law judges.

She served on the executive board of the California Judges Association (CJA) from 2007 to 2010, is on the CJA Foundation Board, and is a current board member of the California Court Commissioners Association.

Commissioner Alexander has served on the Superior Court of Alameda County since 1997 and has expertise in family law, domestic violence and civil harassment, elder abuse, and traffic and small claims. In 2012, she was named the State Bar Family Section’s Judicial Officer of the Year.

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