California Bar Journal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)


spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Judge Epstein receives Bernard Witkin medal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)

Appellate court Justice Norman L. Epstein founded the Witkin Medal Award to honor a friend and respected colleague, never realizing the prestigious prize would eventually come full circle and land squarely on him.

Epstein, 68, is the award's ninth recipient since it was founded in 1993 in honor of fellow educator Bernard E. Witkin, now deceased. Epstein was selected in secret by the panel he recommended when he first pitched the award.

Norman EpsteinBut the  2nd District Court of Appeals justice expressed some reservations about being placed among the intellectual giants who comprise the previous winners, including Witkin himself, the late state Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk and trial attorney Joseph A. Ball.

"I hope I'm not getting the award simply because I came up with the idea," Epstein said.

The award recognizes attorneys, judges and legal scholars whose lifetime body of work has altered the legal landscape.

It was presented by State Bar President Palmer Madden at a Sept. 8 reception during the State Bar's Annual Meeting.

Epstein, a recent appointee to the Judicial Council of California, was appointed to the appellate bench by former Gov. George Deukmejian in 1990. Along with California Criminal Law, Second Edition, the Los Angeles native has written and lectured civil law and procedure and criminal law.

He also was a lecturer at the University of Southern California law center and served on numerous bench and bar committees.

Epstein is a former dean of the California Judicial College and has been a faculty member since 1978.

Since the 1970s, he has been honored with various awards, including the UCLA School of Law Alumnus of the Year Award, the Bernard Jefferson Award for distinguished judicial education, and the Distinguished Trial Award given by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Epstein said he created the award to honor Witkin after the bar expressed interest in honoring the famed attorney with an oral history project on the occasion of his 88th birthday.

"Bernie - that's what his friends called him - just didn't want to do it," Epstein said. "I was trying to think of something significant that would recognize (him)."

He added: "Bernie is unique in California; there probably will never be anyone with the breadth in his ability to understand, analyze, synthesize and articulate the entire body of California law . . . in a way that is so useful to lawyers."