2002 PUBLIC LAWYER OF THE YEAR: HERSCHEL ELKINS

Herschel ElkinsIn 2002, the Public Lawyer of the Year Award was presented to Herschel Elkins at the Public Law Reception on Friday, October 11, 4:30 p.m. at the 2002 State Bar of California Annual Meeting.

See Consumer Protection Lawyer Herschel Elkins Chosen for Public Law Award in the online edition of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, September 16, 2002, for information about Mr. Elkins distinguished career in public law.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George presented Elkins with the award on October 11 at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Monterey. See the Chief Justice's speech below:

Good evening. I am pleased to participate in these ceremonies conferring the Public Lawyer Award on Herschel T. Elkins. As a public lawyer for my entire career, I consistently have derived great satisfaction from providing public service, and I am honored to take part in this occasion recognizing the contributions of an exemplary public servant.

While I have served more than 30 years on the bench, my first job out of law school found me working for the Attorney General of California in Los Angeles as a trial and appellate lawyer in the Criminal Division. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting today's honoree. I did not have an opportunity to directly practice with him because he had moved on to head the new Consumer Law Section, but his intelligence, skill and dedication were already well-known and well-appreciated throughout the office.

Being a public lawyer is not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged. Public legal service certainly is not the most remunerative practice in which one may engage, and may not garner the biggest headlines. But in my view, it can be a source of the greatest satisfaction. The work of the public lawyer is essential to our society because of its focus on ensuring that government, at whatever level, does its job well for the public as a whole.

The broad range of subjects addressed by public lawyers makes for exciting practice opportunities. Public lawyers are employed at every level of government, and their practice specializes in criminal prosecution, utilities law, antitrust, licensing and regulation, environmental, civil rights, tax, municipal law, and enforcement of local ordinances, to name a few. Public lawyers often encounter unique legal problems that enable them to make important contributions both to the community and to the development of the law.

Herschel T. Elkins is an excellent example of a public lawyer who took the challenge and made a difference. He has had a 45-year career in the Attorney General's office, leading the Consumer Law Section since 1965 -- after its creation by the Attorney General, my late former colleague Stanley Mosk, shortly before he took the bench.

Herschel has been involved in and has led numerous statewide groups and committees addressing consumer protection matters, and has participated in drafting many of California's consumer protection statutes. And he has been generous with his time and expertise in encouraging others to actively engage in consumer protection.

He has lectured law enforcement and other agencies on consumer protection law and its practical implications, and authored the "Consumer Protection & Civil Injunctions Points and Authorities Manual," which is widely used by prosecutors across the State and is now in its 17th edition.

Every day, consumers who deal with obtaining credit, who seek housing, purchase automobiles or other retail goods, enter into health club and dance studio contracts, hire contractors to do home repair work, or encounter door-to-door salesmen, have Herschel Elkins to thank for increasing consumer protection and ensuring California's leadership role in this area of the law.

Too frequently of late, we hear of lawyers -- who serve as officers of the court, and are expected to adhere to a stringent ethical code -- being accused of forgetting their roots as professionals. During his entire career, Herschel Elkins has demonstrated through his extraordinary accomplishments that an individual dedicated to the highest principles of the practice of law can make both government and the law work to the great benefit of the public whom they are intended to serve.

Herschel, by conferring upon you the Public Lawyer Award, your peers have recognized your truly exceptional achievements. On behalf of the entire judicial system, and as a former colleague in the Attorney General's office, it gives me great pleasure to extend my warmest congratulations.