Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, November 4, 2002


Page 4


George Presents Burger Award to Court Education Director


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Karen M. Thorson, the woman in charge of educating court employees, including judges, was presented a national award on Friday honoring her accomplishments.

California Chief Justice Ronald M. George presented Thorson with the 2002 Warren E. Burger Award at the Judicial Council’s meeting.  The award is presented annually by the National Center for State Courts to individuals who have significantly contributed to the field of court administration through management and administration, education and training, and research or consulting.

This year’s recipient has been the director of the Education Division of California’s Administrative Office of the Courts since 2000. 

She received a silver plate with name engraveed on it.

Thorson, who said she was “absolutely surprised” when she learned that she would receive the award last December, attributed much of her success to a conducive environment shaped by the staff, court administrators, and chief justices that she has worked with.

Thorson was first presented the award unexpectedly in August at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Judicial Educators.

William Vickrey, the AOC director, insisted that she be presented the award in California in the presence of her staff and other associates, she said. 

Thorson possesses masters’ degrees in education and psychology.  She has been involved in court administration for more than 16 years, and has an extensive background in education, the AOC said.

George said he was not surprised that Thorson was selected to receive the award because she is natinally renowned and “so clearly deserved it.”

Vickrey agreed, referring to Thorson as the “preeminent judicial educator in the nation.”

He praised her work in California and noted that her unique ability to inspire her staff and others has been a key to her success .

“I think the National Center for State Courts had little difficulty selecting Karen to receive the award,” Vickrey said. 

He also applauded the native Alabaman’s “creative leadership” and dedication as he described the model curriculum-based plan Thorson has been in charge of developing during the last two years.

Under this comprehensive program, a curriculum is being developed so that courses provided to educate all levels of court employees including judges, clerks, bailiffs and court executives will follow a methodical path reflecting the stage of the individual in their career from the entry-level to the advanced, Thorson explained. 

Courses developed in accordance with the plan are expected to be introduced next year, she said.

The AOC also boasts Thorson’s involvement in improving the state’s system of “distance education” through the use of a new satellite broadcast system and the internet, and the creation of an AOC staff education program.

Immediately prior to joining the AOC in California, Thorson served as the director of Arizona’s AOC Education Services Division while working for that state’s Supreme Court.

She also has provided consulting services to more than 18 states and served on the faculty of the National Judicial College and the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education.

The Virginia based-NCSC, that presented the award to the life-long educator, was founded in 1971 by U.S. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, for whom the award is named.  It was created with the purpose of improving the administration of justice through research, education, consulting and information services.

George, who presented the award during the Judicial Council’s business meeting Friday, is the chair-elect of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company