California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the state affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, announced last week that Open Vallejo has won this year’s Journalistic Integrity Award.
CACJ is honoring the newsroom for its cumulative work, which has “helped to further the public’s understanding of the criminal justice system and the rights to due process and equal protection,” according to a statement released by the organization.
The CACJ Board of Governors established the Journalistic Integrity Award in 1985 on the condition that it not be designated an annual award, “but only be presented when truly merited,” according to the group. Its first recipient was Los Angeles Times editorial writer Philip Kerby, who had previously been awarded the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for articles opposing government secrecy and judicial censorship.
Founded in 1973, CACJ is the largest statewide organization of criminal defense professionals in the country. Its mission is “to ensure the justice system shows respect to each and every person who is accused, and that prosecutors and judges follow the law,” which it pursues by providing continuing legal education and filing amicus briefs in select cases. The organization also engages in legislative advocacy, including by supporting a recently-passed law that limits the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials.
The Journalistic Integrity Award is Open Vallejo’s eighth journalism award since its founding in 2019, and the second such award from an organization focused on criminal justice. The newsroom has also been honored nationally for its work by the Institute for Nonprofit News, LION Publishers, and the University of Southern California, which in 2021 awarded Open Vallejo the prestigious Selden Ring Special Citation for exposing a tradition in which Vallejo police officers bend the points of their badges to mark each person they kill.