'Judicial Excellence'


An alumna of the University of Michigan Law School, Washtenaw County 15th District Court Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines will be honored with the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), at a November dinner ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legal News file photo

Washtenaw judge to receive William H. Rehnquist Award

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Elizabeth (“Libby”) Pollard Hines started out as a journalist but resigned her first day after learning she had earned a place at the University of Michigan Law School.

Journalism’s loss was justice’s gain—and clearly the right choice for Hines, a Washtenaw County 15th District Court Judge who has been named as recipient of this year’s William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. Presented annually by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the award, named for the 16th Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005, is one of the nation’s highest judicial honors.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. will present the award, on November 15, during an evening dinner ceremony at the United States Supreme Court.   

“I’m incredibly honored, thrilled and humbled to have been chosen for the award,” said Hines, who was honored in 2008 with the NCSC Distinguished Service Award, and in 2011 and 2014 was elected to serve on the organization’s Board of Directors.

The prestigious Rehnquist Award honors a state court judge who demonstrates integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, professional ethics, creativity, sound judgment, intellectual courage, and decisiveness; is taking bold steps to address issues affecting the local community; and who provides model programs for court systems throughout the United States.     

“If you look at the criteria they publish for this award, Libby hits a home run in every area,” says 15th District Court Chief Judge Joseph F. Burke. “She is fair, innovative, creative, courteous – every single thing they’re looking for, she excels at in every way. I’m lucky to work alongside such a good judge and good person. This is an accolade long overdue and richly deserved.”

The daughter of the late Hon. John B. Osgood, Hines spent 15 years as a Washtenaw County prosecutor, before being elected to the 15th Judicial District Court bench in 1992. She presides over primarily criminal cases including a specialized domestic violence docket.

The former Presiding Judge of the District Court Division of the Washtenaw County Trial Court, Hines was drawn to the law as a career where she could help people get the support they need.
And after attending a 2005 Rotary Club meeting where she learned about a homeless court program in San Diego, she contacted local law enforcement and social service agencies to launch a similar initiative—resulting in the Street and Outreach Court, a flexible way of treating non-violent offenders in Washtenaw County and providing tools and resources to help them.

Appointed in 1987 as first Chair of Ann Arbor's Domestic Violence Coordinating Board, from 1999 to 2004 Hines served on the Executive Committee managing a Judicial Oversight Demonstration Initiative (JODI) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Hines, who helps train new judges on domestic violence through the Michigan Judicial Institute, was appointed to serve on the Governor's Task Force on Children's Justice and the Governor's Task Force on Batterer Intervention Standards; and was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure to review rules of criminal procedure used by all Michigan courts.

“I’m also proud to have been appointed by the Governor to serve on the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board—MDSVPTB—where I currently serve” she said.   

MDSVPTB Executive Director Debi Cain has worked closely with Hines for over 20 years on local, state and national initiatives to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence.
“There is no one more deserving of this (Rehnquist award) honor than Judge Libby Hines,” Cain said. “She has a remarkable ability to create working partnerships with others, which is key to accomplishing change in this arena. We so appreciate how hard she works to help guide the work of the board.

“She also has a wicked sense of humor and a terrible fondness for bad puns, which makes her a lot of fun to work with, too. I’m so glad that her work, integrity, and character is being recognized with this award.”    

Hines currently serves on the State Planning Body, addressing legal services in Michigan, was a member of the Access to Justice Committee of the Michigan State Bar's Judicial Crossroads Task Force, and was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to serve on the SOS (Solutions on Self-Help) Task Force. She was a member of the National Domestic Violence Court Technical Assistance Consultancy Team for the Center for Court Innovation and the National Center for State Court's Advisory Committee for its Problem-Solving Justice Toolkit. In 2015, she was elected to serve on the Michigan State Bar Foundation.

Elected to the Board of Governors of the American Judges Association (AJA), Hines is currently co-chair of the AJA Domestic Violence Committee, past chair of the AJA Access to Justice Committee, and a member of the AJA Executive Committee.

AJA honored her work by creating the Judge Elizabeth Hines Award in 2012, of which she was the first recipient. The annual honor recognizes judges who have pioneered new strategies to decrease incidents of domestic violence.

Local attorney Lore Rogers, a long-time activist in the fight to end domestic and sexual violence, said Hines has been an implacable force for change in improving court and criminal justice responses to domestic violence cases, both locally and statewide.

“One example, among many, is that she saw the need for the court to remove institutional barriers to survivors seeking protective orders. Thanks to her, the Washtenaw County Trial Court was among the first in the country to hire a protective order liaison to assist survivors in navigating the protective order process,” Rogers said.

“And she has done this work without sacrificing judicial integrity or neutrality. I’ve always been impressed by the fact she treats every case that comes before her thoughtfully, with the same attention to detail, fairness, and courtesy to litigants as if it was her very first case as a judge.”   

Hines was honored with the Patriot Award from the Washtenaw County Bar Association, where she is a longtime member and a frequent face at WCBA activities, as well as at Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) events. Memberships also include the Michigan State Bar Association, the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the American Judges Association, the National Association of Women Judges, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Michigan District Judges Association, that in 2011 awarded her its first annual Judicial Excellence Award.    

“It’s a privilege to know and serve with Judge Libby Hines, who is so respected nationally and locally,” said 15th District Court Judge Karen Quinlan Valvo. “Her receipt of the Rehnquist Award is richly deserved and brings a spotlight to the selfless work she has done over the years.”