EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re running this news release in the form of a letter to the editor to bring attention to the excellent work of Wahkiakum County District Court Administrator Kristy Hendrickson.

The state Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) presented Innovating Justice Awards on May 21 to Wahkiakum County District Court Administrator Kristy Hendrickson, state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, Court Improvement Program Supervisor Cindy Bricker and the COVID Rapid Response Workgroup members for their work responding to urgent problems caused by the covid pandemic.

Hendrickson worked tirelessly to keep her court open for people who had little or no access to the internet, and to assist a judge with serious health issues. Justice Madsen, with Bricker and family welfare experts, worked to create a response team to maintain family visitation and connections during the pandemic, helped create new court guidelines and other new processes to help courts and families.

“This is a chance for us to recognize those who have gone well above what was expected, especially those who found creative solutions to the problems created by the pandemic,” said Clark County Superior Court Judge Gregory Gonzales, BJA co-chair.

The Innovating Justice Awards were established in late 2020 by the BJA to recognize leadership during the COVID crisis that promotes judicial branch innovation as well as responsiveness to racial equity and access to justice issues.

The letters of nomination for the May 2021 Innovating Justice Award included:

Kristy Hendrickson: “In Wahkiakum County, access to high speed internet is by far the exception rather than the rule. Ms. Hendrickson worked hard to ensure that those without high speed internet were given alternatives that allowed them to participate. She worked to set up a ‘Zoom station’ in our courthouse by April 2020 and arranged for people to use it. She spent hours coordinating telephonic appearances for Zoom when video appearance was not possible, and assisting attorneys to get court paperwork to digitally-challenged clients,” wrote Judge Heidi Heywood in her nominating letter.

In addition, when the court’s one judge was diagnosed with a serious illness, Hendrickson ensured the judge continually received needed materials in order to continue working, stepped in as the judge’s “eyes and ears” with health department modifications required for pandemic safety, created new processes to ensure in-custody defendants had access to counsel at preliminary hearings, and more.

“This all speaks to the dedication of one woman who, for more than a year, kept our court system functioning,” wrote Judge Heywood.

Submitted by

ERIC WATNESS

Retired King County Superior Court Commissioner, now JAMS mediator

Bay Center

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