Berkeley, CA – U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ’62 has been chosen as the 2004 recipient of Boalt Hall’s Judge D. Lowell and Barbara Jensen Public Service Award. The award is given annually to a prominent Boalt graduate who has demonstrated outstanding dedication to public service in the legal realm. Henderson will receive the honor at an October 14 luncheon in San Francisco.
“I am genuinely honored to be chosen for such an esteemed award,” Henderson said. “I have seen, over my lifetime, the impact of legendary figures like Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge John Minor Wisdom, and they remind me every day of the importance of public service in the law, and how it can truly make a difference in improving lives.”
During an illustrious legal career spanning more than four decades, Henderson has taken notable stands in defense of civil rights, civil liberties and the environment. Currently a senior U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California, Henderson was appointed to the federal bench in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and served as chief judge from 1990-97.
Boalt Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. praised the selection of Judge Henderson. “Judge Henderson is a fierce champion of justice, a humanitarian of the first order, a distinguished jurist, and, of course a blazing star in the Boalt Hall firmament,” said Edley. “Conferring this honor is a delight because there is simply no one more deserving of our Jensen Public Service Award.”
As a new Boalt graduate in the early 1960s, Henderson became the first African-American lawyer in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and traveled throughout the South investigating voting rights abuses. Returning to the Bay Area, he went on to work in private practice, at a neighborhood legal center and in academia.
As a federal judge, Henderson has ruled on conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison, the protection of dolphins from commercial fishing nets and the rights of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In 1996 Henderson temporarily blocked enforcement of Proposition 209, finding that the voter measure barring race- and gender-conscious affirmative action programs violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. The ruling was later reversed on appeal.
An East Bay resident, Henderson has served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and worked with a variety of national organizations addressing educational and economic opportunity. Though he assumed senior status in 1998, Henderson remains an active federal judge.
Created in 1998, the Jensen Award is a tribute to U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen ’52, a former Alameda County district attorney and U.S. deputy attorney general; and his late wife, Barbara. Past recipients of the award are: Judge Robert Puglia ’58 (2003); former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III ’58 (2002); attorney Joanne Garvey ’61 (2001); Judge Harry W. Low ’55 (2000); Judge Clinton White ’48 (1999); and Judge Stanley Golde ’52 (1998). This year’s awards luncheon will also recognize Boalt students Eliza Hersh ’05 and Durwood Riedel ’06, who received Jensen fellowships for summer work in public interest law.