Colorado program receives Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Advancement of Civics Education
Williamsburg, Va., June 1, 2020 – The Our Courts Colorado program is the recipient of the 2020 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education, presented annually by the National Center for State Courts. The award honors an organization, court, program, or individual who has promoted, inspired, improved, or led an innovation or accomplishment in the field of civics education related to the justice system. The award presentation date has yet to be determined.
Our Courts Colorado was selected for its broad reach, continued program expansion, and its ability to be replicated in other jurisdictions around the country, according to the selection committee of NCSC’s Board of Directors.
Our Courts, a joint program of the Colorado Bar Association and the Colorado Judicial Institute, was founded in 2007 to provide nonpartisan educational programs to adults to increase their knowledge of the courts. Volunteer judges and lawyers launched the program with a single Powerpoint called “Our State Courts.” The demand for this program increased so significantly that more than 10 additional presentations were developed, and to date, 294 speakers (judges and attorneys) have presented more than 600 times, reaching more than 20,000 Coloradans.
“The impact and scope of Our Courts’ efforts has been broad and sustained,” said Colorado Chief Justice Nathan Coats, who wrote the nomination letter. “The program has thrived for 13 years, and it has grown steadily to reach an ever increasing and diverse audience.”
Our Courts’ organizers recognized that the program’s success meant expanding its reach, not just its offerings. Outreach efforts expanded to the African-American and Hispanic communities. Hispanic program materials are translated into Spanish and presented by Spanish-speaking judges and lawyers. To date, 29 bilingual speakers have presented more than 50 programs to Spanish-speaking audiences in the state.
In 2018, Our Courts organizers realized the program was missing an important segment of the adult population: high school seniors soon to be eligible to vote. An innovative, interactive high school program was created to help students think critically about the qualities that make for a good judge. This program involves students playing the role of judicial nominating commissioners conducting mock interviews for judicial candidates. In its first year, the program has been in more than 40 high schools, reaching more than 1,000 students.
This is the 10th year NCSC has presented the O'Connor Award, named for retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in honor of her commitment to improving civics education. After retiring from the bench in 2006, Justice O'Connor became a tireless advocate of civics education, working to increase awareness and understanding of how our government works. She established iCivics, a program that uses Web-based educational tools to teach civics education and to inspire students to be active participants in society.
Contact: Colorado Justice Richard L. Gabriel
Executive director of Our Courts Colorado
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.
National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4147