February 22, 2021
Contact: City Manager Martin Casey, 509-836-6300
Judge Steven Michels, 509-836-6270
Sunnyside Court Administrator Earns Innovating Justice Award
The Washington State Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) has presented an Innovating Justice Award to Sunnyside Court Administrator Vanessa Engquist for her creativity and dedication to keeping our Municipal Courts operating and accessible during the pandemic.
Engquist adapted an outside drive-up payment counter at the Sunnyside Law and Justice Center to conduct court hearings and proceedings in a safe way. Engquist purchased equipment, installed outside canopies for court users waiting outside at social distances, arranged for Zoom proceedings with attorneys, and provided training on the new systems and processes.
Sunnyside Municipal Court Judge Steven Michels nominated Engquist for this award. “All of this was the brainchild of creative and dedicated Sunnyside Municipal Court Administrator, Vanessa Engquist.”
Judge Michels noted that Engquist enabled the Court “to conduct all court hearings, including arraignments, bail hearings, SOC hearings, accept guilty pleas and hear probation petitions and almost any other type of hearing with the exception of trials despite the challenging conditions created by the pandemic. In short, Vanessa’s efforts allowed us to process about 150 cases a week.”
Invited to speak during the BJA award presentation virtually, Engquist stated, “I am humbled and grateful for this recognition. This was very much a team effort among all of the partners in our local law and justice community.”
City Manager Martin Casey observed, “Vanessa showed great adaptability to preserve access to justice, and she leveraged federal COVID-19 relief funds effectively to cover the costs for these changes.”
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 BJA is chaired by Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González.
# # #