The Judicial Council announced five recipients of its 2017 Distinguished Service Award, the highest honors given by the state court system’s governing body. For 24 years, the council has recognized individuals and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and contributions to the administration of justice in California.

Here are this year’s award recipients:

  • Judge Erica Yew, Superior Court of Santa Clara County
  • Judge Mark Juhas, Superior Court of Los Angeles County
  • Justice Jeffrey Johnson, Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District
  • Snorri Ogata, Chief Information Officer, Superior Court of Los Angeles County
  • Bet Tzedek

Judge Erica Yew has been a trailblazer in expanding access for self-represented litigants and limited-English-proficient court users. While a member of the Judicial Council, Judge Yew served on the council’s Self-Represented Litigants Taskforce and its Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness. In addition to her council work, Judge Yew served on the ABA Advisory Committee on Language Access, which developed and implemented recommendations nationwide to improve access to the courts. She also taught a workshop on Limited English Proficiency at Beyond the Bench in 2013 and co-hosted a video with Judge Steven Austin on the same subject for the council’s Language Access Plan Implementation Taskforce.

Judge Mark Juhas is a zealous advocate for simplifying court processes to increase accessibility and efficiency. He has been the leading voice for the Incubator Project, which provides training and support to help new attorneys learn how to better serve low-income individuals. In addition to his advocacy for the Incubator Project, Judge Juhas chairs the California Commission on Access to Justice and serves on the Judicial Council’s Center for Judicial Education and Research Governing Committee. Judge Yew and Judge Juhas will receive the Distinguished Service Award jointly.

Justice Jeffrey Johnson is a member of the Judicial Council’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee and advises the council on prioritizing courthouse construction projects throughout the state. He also chairs the council’s Courthouse Cost Reduction Subcommittee, which works to reduce the cost of those construction projects. The subcommittee has identified nearly $400 million in savings and ensured the judicial branch is making efficient use of public funds.

Snorri Ogata has transformed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Information Technology Division to improve services for court users and increase access for justice partners, lawyers, and the public. He has spearheaded the court’s efforts in numerous self-service applications and online services, including e-filing, self-scheduling appointments, and its online avatar (“Gina”) that helps users deal with their traffic tickets. Mr. Ogata serves on the Board of Directors for the Court Information Technology Officer Consortium and the Judicial Council’s Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Bet Tzedek Legal Services has provided free and comprehensive legal services for low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles for 40 years. In 2007, Bet Tzedek partnered with the Los Angeles Superior Court to create a self-help conservatorship clinic located in the court. Today, Bet Tzedek assists in over 40% of all new conservatorship filings in the county, and more than 85% of those clinic litigants successfully obtain conservatorships.

(The Distinguished Service Awards ceremony took place Thursday, September 14 at the Judicial Council of California in San Francisco. Photos and video from the event are posted to this webpage.)