CADRE is pleased to announce that the Honorable Robert M. Bell, distinguished jurist, lawyer and civil rights activist, received the 2006 "Keys to Access" Award at the 2006 CADRE National Symposium.

Bell was appointed Chief Judge of Maryland’s Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, in 1996. With that appointment he became the only active judge in Maryland to have served at least four years on all four levels of Maryland's judiciary and the first African American to be named the state's chief jurist.

Judge Bell believes that in order for the legal system to have a positive impact on citizens of any community, they first have to understand, not fear, the legal system. “Trust and confidence in the system is instilled by knowledge,” he said. “The best way for me to do my part in this process of education is by making myself accessible. The knowledge that is gained by the community then helps to take away the fear of the unknown.”

In addition to his renowned career on the bench, Judge Bell has received numerous awards and recognition for his promotion of early and appropriate dispute resolution.

In 2003 Bell became the first state court judge ever to receive the D'Alemberte/Raven award from the American Bar Association (ABA) Dispute Resolution Section. The ABA honored him for creating and leading the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO), which has been recognized as a leader in advancing the appropriate use of mediation and other non-adversarial forms of conflict resolution in the court system and in the wider community. MACRO has helped Maryland's courts increase and improve the dispute resolution options they offer, and has supported efforts to help prevent disputes from escalating and resolve conflicts before court intervention becomes necessary.

Bell was recognized by the Maryland State Bar Association ADR Section with its first Award for Outstanding Contribution to Alternative Dispute Resolution because of his pioneering work in promoting greater use of negotiation, mediation and arbitration within the Maryland judiciary, legal community, businesses, schools, government agencies, and neighborhoods.

A modest man by nature, Bell does not tout his accomplishments even though his illustrious public legacy began early in his life. While attending Dunbar High School in the 1960s, Bell and 11 of his friends were refused service in a downtown Baltimore restaurant; afterward, they were arrested and convicted of trespassing. Bell led the appeal in the 1964 landmark civil rights case, Bell v. Maryland, which was eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and ended de facto racial segregation in Maryland.

Bell graduated from Morgan State College in 1966 and from Harvard Law School in 1969.

Judge Bell’s achievements and milestones across his truly impressive legal career have their foundation in a lifelong commitment to civil rights and to the advancement and success of members of underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.