Juvenile Judge Banke honored with national award

By Daniel Silliman


Everyone in the jam-packed, third-floor courtroom seemed confident, except the judge.

The audience was sure that Clayton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge K. Van Banke deserved the Scales of Justice Award, and when he stood up, they applauded.

Banke, however, was self-deprecating about the honor. "I hope it wasn't just a desperate committee looking for someone," he said, and smiled.

"I don't do it myself," the judge said to the representative of the National Association of Legal Professionals. He turned to a Wednesday morning audience full of the county's juvenile justice professionals, and thanked them.

"When I stood up here, I flashed back to the Emmys, where they're always saying who they want to thank. I'm just going to actually thank you. I thank you," he said in his measured, bass voice. "I don't do it myself. Y'all are the ones making me look good."

Everyone ,who works in the juvenile justice system in the county, Banke said, could work somewhere else and be paid better, or have easier duties, but they choose to sacrifice and work for the children of Clayton County.

"No one has reached out with a pole and pulled you into this," he said, "but there's something about working with children, and you want to be here, and I want to be here," he added.

The Scales of Justice Award is given to those who improve access to justice, improve the quality of legal services, promote the legal profession and support the community in which he or she works and lives.

Associate Judge Steven C. Teske said Banke's self-deprecating reception of the much-deserved award was only a continuation of the attitude of a man who "exudes" leadership.

"He is the most humble man I've ever met in my life," Teske said. "This man sits on the bench and he has the best judicial temperament I have ever seen ... When he gets up there on that bench, he rules with justice, mercy, compassion and wisdom. Now, don't get me wrong, he's firm. When that left eyebrow goes up, you know he's about to come down on you."

The audience laughed and applauded for Banke again.

Teske said the chief judge's legacy will be one of helping children, and he praised Banke for making Clayton's juvenile justice system a model throughout the South.