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Victims' advocates, Judge Miller honored

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Photo by Kami Collins Judge Sandra Miller was recognized as the Victims Advocate of the Year for the 7th Judicial District.

In honor of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, Hilltop's Domestic Violence Services and the 7th Judicial District Attorney's Office recognized victims advocates last week and honored a special Victims Advocate of the Year for the 7th Judicial District. Judge Sandra Miller was honored as this year's recipient.

Dan Hotsenpiller, district attorney for the 7th Judicial District, spoke about how the role of a victim advocate, and how difficult and demanding the job can be. "We value what you do," he said. "You are making a difference in the community." He praised the partnership and engagement between advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors.

In recognizing Judge Miller, Hotsenpiller explained that the courtroom is the focal point of the justice system, and how the judge sets the tone for the trial. "From a victim's point of view, the judge is the personification of justice," he said. "The judge plays a critical role in the public acknowledgment that the victim was harmed." He spoke about how the criminal justice process is the beginning of healing for a victim of a violent crime, and how important it is for the victim to not become a victim of the judicial system on top of everything else. "It isn't easy to give life and meaning to victims' rights," he said. "There is flat out no judge that I know who has given life to victims' rights in the courtroom like Judge Miller. Victims feel heard in her courtroom, and feel like she listens to them."

He also spoke about how he assigns new prosecutors working on his team to Judge Miller's court. Judge Miller's extremely high expectations of everyone who appears in her courtroom, and the way she runs her courtroom, help new attorneys learn quickly, Hotsenpiller said. "You make sure we do our jobs right," he told her.

7th Judicial District Chief Judge Steven Patrick also praised Judge Miller. "She treats everyone -- lawyers, victims and defendants -- with respect, dignity and the right to be heard."

"This couldn't be more meaningful to me," Judge Miller said upon her acceptance. "Victims rights are everyone's rights. At any moment, any one of us could be a victim of a violent crime."

She was gifted with an engraved vase which read, "In recognition of your distinguished service and commitment to providing opportunities for victims to fully participate in the justice system."

Judge Miller has served 16 years on the bench. She will retire this year.

Advocates were treated to a brunch hosted by Hilltop, during which there was a showing of the art exhibit "Sing Our Rivers Red." The exhibit features over 3,400 unmatched earrings, each representing the life of an indigenous woman who has been raped, trafficked, kidnapped, murdered or who has suffered another violent crime. The exhibit is the work of Navajo artist Nani Chacon.

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