East Bay judge to get state award

July 29, 2009 9:48:02 AM PDT
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco, who helped to establish a special Homeless and Caring Court five years ago, has been selected to receive a state award for improving access to justice.

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The state Judicial Council, which is the governing body of the California court system, announced in San Francisco on Tuesday the selection of Baranco for the Aranda Access to Justice Award.

The award will be presented by California Chief Justice Ronald George in October, on a date to be determined, according to council spokeswoman Lynn Holton.

The annual honor is sponsored by the Judicial Council, the California Commission on Access to Justice, the State Bar and the California Judges Association.

Baranco, 61, was appointed a municipal court judge in 1980 and joined the superior court in 1984.

The council said Baranco was instrumental in establishing the Alameda Countywide Homeless and Caring Court and has presided over the court since its inception in 2004.

The Homeless and Caring Court is held every two months in nontraditional settings, such as counseling drop-in centers, soup kitchens and church halls.

It is aimed at referring people accused of petty offenses to appropriate agencies and treatment programs.

Baranco is also vice-chair of the Judicial Council's Fairness and Access Advisory Committee and initiated a collaborative project of the Superior Court and the Peralta Community College District to teach students to become court interpreters.

Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara said, "Our entire community here in Alameda County has been substantially improved because of Judge Baranco's many efforts on so many issues."

Baranco grew up in Oakland and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California at Davis. Before becoming a judge, he worked for the state Department of Justice, the San Francisco district attorney, the Oakland city attorney and a legal services program.

The award is named for the late Benjamin Aranda, a Los Angeles County Municipal Court judge who was the founding chair of the Judicial Council's Fairness and Access Advisory Committee.

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