CBJ - October 2008 #05. Van de Kamp will receive Witkin Medal.


California Bar Journal


CBJ - October 2008 #05.

Van de Kamp will receive Witkin Medal

California Bar Journal October 2008 Van de Kamp will receive Witkin MedalJohn Van de Kamp reacted with characteristic understatement when he learned he is the recipient of an award presented to California's "legal giants": he said he is grateful. It is "particularly nice," he added, "to follow in the footsteps of some good people." Indeed.

Van de Kamp, former California Attorney General, Los Angeles District Attorney, Federal Public Defender for Los Angeles and State Bar President, received the State Bar's Bernard E. Witkin Medal for 2008, an award that is conferred on people "who, through a career of extraordinary service, have made significant contributions to the quality of justice and legal scholarship in our state."

"John has done more than make his mark on the California legal system; he's become a symbol of that system" said former State Bar President Jeff Bleich, who joined the board of governors when Van de Kamp served as the bar's 80th president. "He is as dedicated to justice for all as he ever has been and he stands as a model for us all."

A graduate of Stanford Law School, Van de Kamp, 72, has spent most of his professional life in public service, including two terms as attorney general. While in that post, he created the Public Rights Division, which fought to enforce antitrust laws and statutes protecting consumers, civil rights and the environment. He took an active role in fighting for affirmative action, in opposing discrimination against AIDS patients and in opening private clubs to minorities and women. He fought to protect Lake Tahoe and establish a moratorium on oil drilling off the California coast. Van de Kamp also devised Fast Track-the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act-and implemented the CAL-ID Computerized Finger-print Program.

Van de Kamp said Witkin was a friend who had followed his career closely. "After I retired from public life, he gave me an entire set of his books," he said. "I'm eternally grateful to him." In his latest role as a mediator and arbitrator, he refers to the Witkin treatises frequently, brushing up on issues he hadn't looked at since law school.

Prior to his eight years in Sacramento, Van de Kamp served as U.S. Attorney and the first Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles, director of...

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