I suspect that every state that has successful court ADR programs has a Judge Agnew. He is the judge who championed ADR when people were still confusing mediation and arbitration. He led by example, experimenting with ADR in his own jurisdiction, and led by persuasion, convincing other judges to give ADR a try in their jurisdictions. He led on a statewide level, working inside the structure of the courts and bar associations. He used the standing and relationships he had developed through years of dedicated service, to promote a new way to serve those who turn to the courts for justice, while also meeting the needs of the lawyers, judges and court personnel who work within the justice system every day.
Yesterday RSI honored the Honorable Harris H. Agnew, former Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit, based in Rockford, Illinois for his decades of tireless work to expand and enhance the use of court ADR in state and federal courts throughout Illinois. We renamed the award we give “to individuals whose cumulative activities have substantially and meaningfully furthered and enhanced court-annexed alternative dispute resolution (ADR) systems in the State of Illinois” the Harris H. Agnew Service to Community Award. Anyone who receives this renamed award will be doubly honored, as any positive comparison to what Judge Agnew has done for court ADR in Illinois is high praise.
Here’s hoping that every state identifies and honors its Judge Agnew. They are a rare breed who leave a lasting legacy.