Justice to be honored for access efforts

Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Douglas has spent his career advocating for equal access to justice. His peers will recognize those efforts May 12 when the Clark County Law Foundation presents Douglas with its Liberty Bell award during Law Day observances.

Law Day "is an opportunity to showcase access to justice and our specialty court program," Douglas said Wednesday. "We can also let people know about the legal services we offer and all the attorneys who continue to do pro bono work at a time when everybody needs so much help."

For Douglas, the courts must remain open to all, not just those with resources.

"Our push is to make all Nevada citizens first-class citizens," he said.

Liberty Bell candidates must promote a better understanding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, something Douglas has done for decades, said Linda Bullen, a lawyer who oversaw the nomination process.

While the court continues to do all it can to make the legal system easier to navigate as more people forgo the help of attorneys, Douglas has played a strong role in the State Bar of Nevada's We the People program, which educates students about the Constitution and the rule of law.

"They're the future," Douglas said of the students who participate in the statewide contest. "It's a great program."

Two years ago, Douglas was one of the judges at the national contest in Washington, D.C.

"I can report that Nevada students were every bit as prepared and knowledgeable as any others," he said. "I'm just glad they aren't old enough to take my job. No disrespect to any attorneys, but some of them are better prepared than some of the attorneys that have made oral arguments to the court. "

Law Day is national program sponsored by the American Bar Association, but each state is allowed to create its own observance. The theme this year is President John Adams, who demonstrated the importance of lawyers vigorously representing even the most unpopular clients.