Veteran Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Tony Gordon was honored by the Lake County Bar Association on Tuesday, when it presented him with the Liberty Bell Award.
Given annually since 2005 in the memory of former Lake County Circuit Judge Thomas R. Smoker, the award goes to an individual and organization contributing to the greater understanding of the legal system. The awards are decided by a vote of Lake County's judges.
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The Guardianship Help Desk, which provides assistance to petitioners in minor guardianship cases, also received a Liberty Bell Award.
Mark Pleasant, a retired special investigator with the Lake County state's attorney's office, received the 2012 Law Enforcement Award from the Illinois State Bar Association.
The awards were presented during a luncheon at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago.
Gordon, who has worked for the Daily Herald since 1994, has covered some of the most high-profile crime and court stories in county history. He also has worked at the Evansville Press and Waukegan News-Sun in a journalism career that began 1983.
Chief Judge Victoria A. Rossetti, who presented Gordon with the award, said Gordon has been "honest, fair and courageous" in his 25 years of news gathering, reporting and interpreting information involving the court system. She said he tells stories of the diversity and magnitude of the human spirit "boldly and with compassion."
Rossetti said one court official told her Gordon is "a traditional old-time reporter who gives only the facts but on top of that he's a top-shelf human being."
He received a standing ovation when presented with the award.
Gordon told the crowd made up of lawyers, judges and other court officials and employees that his work is a product of collaboration. He praised officials for taking time to answer his questions and making sure he understood the information.
"This is our award," he said.
The Guardianship Help Desk began in 2010, and volunteers have served more than 800 petitions in that time. In all, 40 attorneys and 26 paralegals volunteer their time to help people through the process. Attorney Liz Rochford, who accepted the award along with paralegals Frank Osborne and Anna Higgins, said it is a "cooperative effort of so many people."
Pleasant retired after a long career dedicated to helping abused children. He investigated more than 1,000 cases involving crimes involving children.
He said he was proud of his employment with the state's attorney's office.
"Very few people can say at the end of their career they got to do what they wanted to do," he said.