John Van de Kamp
SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp was named this year's winner of the Bernard E. Witkin Medal, the State Bar announced Friday.
The Witkin Medal was created in 1993 and recognizes "those legal giants among us who have altered the landscape of California Jurisprudence," a press release issued by the State Bar said.
The medal is named after its first winner, Bernard Witkin, a notable legal scholar who died in 1995 at the age of 91.
Van de Kamp was honored for "a career that spans more than half a century," State Bar President Jeff Bleisch said. "John has done more than make his mark on the California legal system; he's become a symbol of that system. He is as dedicated to justice for all as he ever has been and he stands as a model for us all."
Van de Kamp's accomplishments include creating the Public Rights Division while attorney general, giving priority to the enforcement of anti-trust laws that protect customers and championing both civil rights and the environment.
Also cited were Van de Kamp's support for affirmative action, fight against AIDS discrimination, efforts to open private clubs to minorities and women, battles to protect Lake Tahoe and establish a moratorium on oil drilling off the California coast, and role in creating the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act-also known as the "fast track" law on expediting trial of civil cases-the CAL-ID Computerized Fingerprint Program, the press release states.
"It's particularly nice because I'm following the footsteps of some good people," Van de Kamp, 71, said of the honor. "Bernie [Witkin] was a friend of mine."
Van de Kamp served two terms as attorney general starting in 1982, following two terms as the Los Angeles District Attorney. In 1990 he ran for governor, losing the Democratic nomination to Dianne Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco who now serves as a United States Senator.
Previous medal winners include former Court of Appeals Justice Norman Epstein, former state Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, Senior Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Chief Justice Ronald George and Los Angeles attorneys Seth and Shirley Hufstedler.
Van de Kamp will receive the award at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Monterey Sept. 27.