The Judicial Council of California today announced two recipients of its 2023 Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes people and organizations for their extraordinary leadership and contributions to the administration of justice in California. This year’s recipients of the California judicial branch’s highest award are Justice Marsha Slough and Presiding Justice Lee Smalley Edmon. The Aranda Access to Justice Award, co-sponsored by the Judicial Council, will be awarded to Judge Mark A. Juhas.
Said California Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero: “These court leaders have made an impact far beyond their own courtrooms to create lasting legacies throughout the judicial branch. Their commitment to upholding our mission of diversity and inclusivity, and fair and equal access to justice has set a remarkable standard for all to follow.”
This year’s Distinguished Service Award recipients are:
Justice Marsha Slough
Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two (Riverside)
Justice Marsha Slough has been a leading voice on key branch initiatives through three consecutive terms on the Judicial Council. She chaired the council’s Executive and Planning Committee and played a key role in drafting emergency court rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped curb the spread of the virus in California jails, reduce evictions and foreclosures, and encourage the use of remote technology to maintain access to the courts. Justice Slough led a statewide Workgroup on Post-Pandemic Initiatives that examined and promoted innovative practices employed by courts during the pandemic. She also chaired the Code of Civil Procedure Section 367.9 Working Group which provided recommendations on how courts can use remote proceedings in civil cases while also providing equal access to the process for all participants.
In addition to her leadership during the pandemic, Justice Slough helped lead efforts to create pretrial programs that use risk assessment tools, support services, and reminder systems that have shown promise in reducing rearrests and failures to appear for defendants released awaiting trial. She chaired the Pretrial Reform and Operations Workgroup, which launched pretrial pilots that have since grown to include programs in all 58 counties.
Justice Slough served twice as San Bernardino County’s presiding judge, leading the court through budget challenges caused by the Great Recession. She also made history when appointed as the first openly gay justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside in 2015.
Presiding Justice Lee Smalley Edmon
Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three (Los Angeles)
Presiding Justice Lee Smalley Edmon has been instrumental in supporting efforts to expand the diversity of California’s judiciary. She serves as co-chair of the California Judicial Mentor Program for the appellate courts, which expanded branch diversity efforts to support attorneys interested in becoming appellate justices. She also served as the national co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, which provides opportunities for diverse law students to serve as summer interns with state and federal judges across the country.
In addition to efforts to increase judicial diversity, Presiding Justice Edmon has worked to expand legal assistance to those who can’t afford it. She chaired a State Bar task force to find innovative solutions to the justice gap and expand legal help available to low-income Californians.
Before being elevated to the Second Appellate District in 2014, she was the first woman to be named presiding judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in that court’s 170-year history. During her tenure as presiding judge, she worked with judicial and legislative representatives to make difficult decisions on court closures made necessary by budget cuts to the courts. She also served on the Judicial Council’s Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee when it proposed the Workload Allocation Funding Methodology (WAFM), a more equitable way of funding the courts across the state.
More information on the Distinguished Service Awards and previous recipients
Aranda Access to Justice Award
Judge Mark A. Juhas, Superior Court of Los Angeles County, is the recipient of the 2023 Aranda Access to Justice Award. The Aranda Award is cosponsored by the Judicial Council, California Lawyers Association, and California Judges Association, in association with the California Commission on Access to Justice.
The Aranda award honors a judge demonstrating a long-term, tireless commitment to improving, and promoting fairness and access to, the courts, especially for low-and moderate-income Californians.
Throughout his career, Judge Juhas has worked to improve services and access to justice in family court, particularly for low- and moderate-income litigants. That work included recommended changes to statutes and court rules and helped create a program to educate and promote the practice of family law to attorneys statewide.
Judge Juhas was also the longtime chair of the California Access to Justice Commission, including work to create the commission’s Incubator Project. The project is part of a national movement to connect practical training for newer lawyers to help provide affordable legal assistance to low- and moderate-income clients on a range of topics, including family and housing law, labor code violations, and consumer debt.
Judge Juhas has also led efforts to improve services for self-represented litigants. He has served on the Project Advisory Board of the Self-Represented Litigation Network, the Judicial Council’s Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants, and the American Bar Association’s Standing committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. He also serves on the Los Angeles County Law Library Board of Trustees, creating educational programs to assist self-represented litigants.