Hon. Ronald Abernethy Retirement did not conclude Judge Abernethy’s participation and service to the San Diego community. He continued to serve for many years throughout the State as a Judge Pro Tem at the request of the Chief Justice. He exerted a strong influence on the criminal justice system in his many years of service. He died at the age of 96 in May 1995. “He was a dignified, elegant man until his last breath.” (San Diego Union Tribune, May 23, 1995, p. B-5).
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he emigrated to Toronto, Canada aboard a clipper ship with his family at the age of five. He later became a naturalized United States citizen. During the Depression, Judge Abernethy attended night school at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. He worked his way through school during the days selling accounting supplies. He passed the Bar examination in 1931 and started his own private practice in Pasadena. In 1942, he became an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles. After commuting to San Diego for several years, he opened the first United States Attorney’s Office on the third floor of San Diego’s downtown federal courthouse on F Street. During World War II, Abernethy advised the F.B.I. on security matters.
In 1946, he became a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego. During his service as a prosecutor, he worked some of the most difficult and complex cases. His last responsibility was in the Sampsell case – the notorious Seaboard Finance Company Bandit who terrorized San Diego for many months. Recognizing his superb work in the District Attorney’s Office, Governor Earl Warren appointed him to the Bench, where he served with distinction. He first presided over the Municipal Court.
He joined the Superior Court “in 1960, where he presided over serious murder, kidnaping, bribery, and other felony cases as well as death penalty trials, including Joseph Bernard Morse, the eighteen-year-old who murdered his mother and invalid sister and then a cellmate. ” (LA Times 2/5/60, 12/15/61, 8/7/64, 8/16/64, 10/26/70).
He finished as Presiding Criminal Judge on the court before retiring in 1969. After retiring, Judge Abernethy returned on a pro tem appointment to impose a sentence on Michael English in 1977. English had fled the jurisdiction after the jury in Abernethy’s courtroom had convicted him of four counts of burglary with intent to rape dorm students at the University of California at Irvine. English’s attorney convinced the court that the defendant had died, but in fact, he had assumed another name. Seven years later, English was extradited from New York, when Judge Abernethy imposed a four year sentence. (LA Times 7/21/77).
Tom Adler was born April 24, 1938, in Vienna, Austria. He was two when his family fled the Nazi occupation to the United States. Decades later, as an attorney in San Diego, he devoted himself to championing the underdog, fighting for civil rights and standing up against the abuse of power.
Tom received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Arizona State University and moved in the 1960s to San Diego, where he worked as a juvenile probation officer while attending California Western School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1972. Tom started his legal career at Defenders Program of San Diego, Inc. as a staff attorney, representing indigents accused of crime. Tom later went into private practice representing people accused of crime and later handling civil rights actions in police abuse cases.Tom was a founding member of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association and served as president from 1979 to 1982. He was also a member of the San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers Club and served as its president in 1990. Tom was a member of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and served on its board of governors from 1983 to 1990.
For his work on police misconduct law suits, Tom was named trial lawyer of the year in 1993 by the San Diego Trial Lawyers Association.Tom shared his knowledge and experiences in teaching numerous trial advocacy workshops for criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, and civil rights lawyers. He was an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, teaching trial techniques and lawyering skills, for many years.
In later years Tom worked tirelessly to recover family assets stolen by the Nazis. His investigation culminated in writing the book “Lost to the World”, which was about how he successfully recovered a manuscript of a symphony given as a gift by Gustav Mahler to his grandfather Guido Adler the founder of The Science of Musicology. The proceeds from the sale of the manuscript were donated to charity.Tom was also active in the ACLU for many years and an award named for him goes to a high school newspaper that has shown dedication to the cause of civil liberties.
When forced to retire from trial practice because of Parkinson’s Disease, Tom remained active first as a mediator and arbitrator and later as a social activist and philanthropist. Tom died on August 23, 2010 after courageously battling Parkinson’s Disease for 14 years. Longfellow wrote that "when a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men." Tom's sunshine lighted numerous paths and many now lead a better life for it.
Hon. Charles Nathaniel Andrews
Judge Charles Andrews was born in Wonewoc, Wisconsin in 1859. He studied law at the University of Wisconsin, taught school in Tennessee, and then practiced law in Mankato, Minnesota and was twice elected as County Attorney there. He moved to California in 1907 to practice law. He practiced until his appointment to the bench in 1912. Judge Andrews was one of the legendary figures on the San Diego judicial bench. Appointed by Governor H. Hiram Johnson, he served for 22 years on the Superior Court Bench until 1934. During a large part of the time on the bench, he served as presiding judge. He passed away in July 1937.
He was described by Leland G. Stanford “as a jurist of the finest judicial mind and temperament. He was no sheep, no follower of any legal bellwether.” (Footprints of Justice in San Diego, p. 63) He distinguished himself in both civil and criminal cases. “He didn’t use precedents as authority, but as guides for his own thinking. When a legal argument was concluded he leaned back in his judicial chair, frequently with his back to the courtroom, and searched his own thoughts for the right answer. And usually he found it.” (Id.) He sat by appointment on the appellate court and “his decisions were accepted by the bench and the bar as the final correct analysis. The man was a genius in distinguishing propriety from pedantry.” (Id.)
He stated a man should retire from public life at the age of 75 and make room for a younger person. He resigned at that age after completing 22 years of service on our Superior Court. (Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 1936, p.2). Andrews was noted for his sense of humor, his skill as presiding judge, and for being “a very capable man who seemed to enjoy guiding the younger lawyers, without offending them by his advice.” (Dicta, October 1974).
In the days before portraits of distinguished judges were displayed in the trial courtrooms of the Superior Court – his portrait stood alone in the busiest trial court in our county. A revered icon in the history of the San Diego bench and bar.
Hon. Howard J. Bechefsky One year prior to his appointment, the El Cajon Municipal Court had been created as an “experiment” with jurisdiction over some types of Superior Court litigation and only handled cases with the consent of the parties, including sixty percent of the felony cases. Judge Bechefsky felt “[t]he experiment was very exciting and important. It is being carefully watched statewide. I hope to contribute to its success.” (Dicta, Feb. 1978). He admitted that in his transition from a criminal defense attorney to a judge that he would “miss the ‘highs’ that come from winning, but not the ‘lows’ that come from losing. I will particularly miss the close, trusting relationship I had with many of my clients. In addition to helping clients with their cases, I tried to help them with their lives.” Bechefsky identified two reasons for seeking the judicial appointment: “My work as President of the Bar Association increased my interest in public service. The second factor was the close working relationship I developed with Judge [Frank] Orfield. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication to his work.” (Id.) He stated that his greatest challenge as a judge would be that of “bringing understanding and compassion to people whose background and culture is very different from mine.” (Id.)
Howard was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 29, 1940. He graduated from Columbia University in 1962 and Columbia Law School in 1965. He was admitted to the California Bar on January 5, 1966. He served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California in Los Angeles from 1966 to 1967. He entered private practice in San Diego and was with Sheela, Lightner, Hughes and Castro from 1968 to 1978. He was a certified criminal law specialist. He participated in many bar activities, chaired the Jail Sub-Committee (1971), the Criminal Law Section (1971), and the Criminal Justice Committee (1972-1973). He was President of Defenders, Inc., Federal Defenders and Appellate Defenders (1972). He was a member of the Board of Directors for the San Diego County Bar Association (1971-1974) and President of the San Diego County Bar in 1972.
He was appointed to the El Cajon Municipal Court by Governor Jerry Brown on January 12, 1978. He was then appointed to the San Diego Superior Court on February 22, 1979. He was a tireless and dedicated lawyer and judge, constantly working to make the justice system achieve its ideals. He had a sharp mind, a quick wit and a delicate touch. He died on April 19, 1980 after a tragic fall in Strawberry Creek, Idyllwild, California.
“He was all of the nice things one could want in a person. A compassionate, thoughtful, and enthusiastic man. The type of person from who each of us benefitted by knowing.” (Dicta, Sept. 1980, William G. Bailey) “He could be so charming that you had to hold onto your gold fillings for fear that you would give them to him.” (Dicta June 1980, Dennis Adams).
Paul Edward Bell The law was not an intellectual abstraction to Paul, nor simply a means of making a living. As he told his wife Dianne early in their relationship, “I don’t care if I don’t make a lot of money. I want to help people.” He cared about helping the little guy, and it showed in the way he dealt with every case and every client; as if they were the most special one of his career. Paul should be remembered for his prodigious knowledge of the law, for his dedication to his family, clients, and community, and for his wonderful smile.
On July 30, 1997, Paul Edward Bell, the assistant director of Appellate Defenders, Inc., passed away after a long battle with lymphoma. Paul was born on March 29, 1945. He graduated from Seattle University in 1967 with a degree in political science and then graduated from UCLA School of Law. He started his career as an Orange County Public Defender, then worked as a research attorney with the San Bernardino Court of Appeal. In 1974, Paul became a staff member of Appellate Defenders, Inc. (which had been founded in 1972 to handle appeals in San Diego). He was named assistant director in 1979 and remained in that position until his death. Paul was instrumental in getting the current appellate project system off the ground in 1983 and in expanding ADI’s responsibilities to the entire Fourth Appellate District.
In 1995, Paul served as the chair of the San Diego County Bar Association’s Appellate Court Committee. He was also honored with the Warhorse Award of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association.
Paul argued many Court of Appeal cases. He appeared before the California Supreme Court on six occasions, posting an impressive five victories. Paul’s work at Appellate Defenders changed the face of criminal appellate law by affecting changes in delinquency, juvenile dependency, welfare law, no-issue cases, and sentencing.
The board of directors of Appellate Defenders, Inc., has honored Paul. The Paul Bell Award is presented annually at the Defender Dinner to an attorney who has demonstrated excellence in the representation of the indigent accused on appeal. The Paul Bell Memorial Fellowship is awarded annually to newer attorneys in recognition of Paul’s dedication to indigent appellate defense, and his well known interest in the development of promising appellate attorneys.
Hon. Madge Bradley Judge Bradley continued with her community activities, becoming the first chair of the Woman’s Division of the San Diego Traffic Safety Council. She was named San Diego “Woman of the Year” in 1953. In 1995, the Madge Bradley Building was named for this trail blazing woman lawyer, and is today where domestic violence and probate cases are heard.
Born in Ukiah, California on November 14, 1904, Madge Bradley was the second of five children born to Hugh and Bertha Bradley. Her father emigrated from England and met her mother at an English settlement in Oceanside, California. After a brief time grape farming in Northern California, the family returned to Oceanside when Madge was 6. She graduated from Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School in 1922, and began working for Union Title Insurance and Trust Company in San Diego.
With the encouragement of a former salesman from LaSalle Extension University in Chicago, Madge began taking correspondence courses. She would awake early to study law before going to work, debating the material with her mother whom she referred to as her “only classmate.” In 1927 she was hired by the San Diego County clerk’s office and became the clerk in charge of passports and naturalization records. She passed the California bar exam in 1933 and was admitted to practice on June 9, 1933.
Because of financial pressures during the Great Depression, Madge did not begin to practice law until 1940, when she took a year leave of absence to work with a firm helping clients prove their citizenship, and landlords evict undesirable tenants. In 1942, Madge Bradley opened her own practice, specializing in adoptions, domestic relations, probate and guardianship work. She chaired the first Community Welfare Council’s Adoption Study Committee. This committee was instrumental in changing California adoption laws and making San Diego the first in the state to receive a license to operate an adoption agency.
Madge Bradley blazed a number of trails, including being the first woman on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Bar Association, the first San Diego County woman to be appointed to a State Bar Committee, the first woman in San Diego to serve as a judge, and the first woman to preside over San Diego’s Municipal Court.
Judge Bradley took her oath of office on November 16, 1953. Being the first woman on the bench was not easy. Often litigants would ask for reassignment to another judge, and another judge purposefully held judicial meetings at the Grant Grill where women were not allowed. The newspaper focused on her attire and hobbies. Over time, Judge Bradley earned a reputation of being firm, fair and well-liked. She was re-elected three times in uncontested elections before retiring on December 1, 1971. It would take fourteen months after she retired before the second woman was appointed to the San Diego bench.
Hon. John Jerome “Jack” Brennan, Sr. Judge Brennan was appointed to the Municipal Court Bench by Governor Olsen on October 7, 1941 where he served until his retirement in 1961. Brennan was initially assigned to the Traffic Court, two months before Pearl Harbor, which in “the immediate beginning of the war years, and San Diego’s mushrooming, boom-town, service-swamped streets, the job became one of the most difficult in the United States. Brennan met the problems patiently, scientifically and effectively. At times the workload was so heavy that the judge worked both night and day. He seldom took a vacation.” (Leland G. Stanford, Footprints of Justice in San Diego at 99). Brennan’s impact was felt through the 1960s. “In no inconspicuous way these ultra-great of San Diego’s exotic formative years march today under the name of Brennan – and toward new history-making heights in this adopted city of the young New York lawyers who became one of our community’s socially-distinguished, professionally acute, and hardest working municipal court judges.” (Id.)
Judge Brennan was born in 1883 near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He completed his education at Fordham University. After moving to San Diego, he practiced with L.L. Boone as one of San Diego’s leading attorneys.
In 1912, he met his future wife in New York. Arcadia Bandini Scott was from an old and prominent family long identified with the development of Southern California, including San Diego. They married in Los Angeles that October. Mrs. Brennan’s father was also a lawyer and served as County Clerk at the offices in Old Town.
In the 1920s, Brennan was a prominent attorney. “As a business man, his reputation is of sterling worth, as a lawyer of marked ability, and personally his friends are legion because of his sincere kindness and genial nature.” (Clarence Alan McGrew, City of San Diego and San Diego County: The Birthplace of California at 140-41 (1922)).
Hon. Michael William Brennan Friends reported that after leaving a doctor’s office who had opined that he had only two months to live, Brennan spoke at a luncheon of the Foothills Bar Association on the future of the El Cajon Superior Court, and told a colleague that “I want to die on the bench, with style and serve those I love.” “He functioned as a Judge, husband, father and friend when he was in such pain and physical agony he had to be helped in and out of cars, on and off the bench. Despite all this, his mental ability, his wit, sense of humor, and ability to function as an outstanding Municipal Court Judge continued until he was taken from us on September 30, 1985.” (Id.)
Born June 14, 1942 in Indianapolis, Brennan received his undergraduate degree from Wabash College, a small liberal arts college for men in Indiana, and his law degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California. Prior to law school he was a social worker and he worked as a juvenile probation officer during law school. His travels took him to Ireland, where he attended Trinity College in Dublin and worked as a gardener; to France, where he worked as a hotel manager; to Japan, where he taught English; and to Guatemala, where he enjoyed time as an amateur archaeologist. He was admitted to the California Bar in 1973.
Judge Donald Smith remembered Brennan as a young lawyer: “He tried cases with amazing success in my courtroom where many of his arguments bordered on impropriety. But he would make them with such grace and style that even his opponents would be touched by his charm.” “He always tried to act as a mediator among other judges. His blarney helped him through many a trying moment.” He loved to travel and to teach. “He was proud to be a judge. In the years prior to his death, his reputation was growing as a man who had that special zest for living – he had that special appreciation of every sunrise or sunset.” During his last year, while battling cancer, he continued to come to work, “day after day, when the pain and suffering must have been overwhelming, [yet] he never wallowed in self-pity.” (Dicta, November 1985).
He worked as a staff attorney at the Defenders Program from the time of his admission to the Bar in 1973, and upon taking the bench, he was appointed as the supervisor of the El Cajon Defenders Office. (Dicta May 1979). He recounted an amusing story during an arraignment of a defendant who had stolen a lamp from the Defenders Office. The defendant sought the replacement of his appointed attorney claiming that the office “hated him so much that they were unable to effectively represent him.” Judge Brennan re-assigned the case and did not remind the defendant that he had been the attorney in the Defenders Office who had retrieved the stolen lamp. (Id.)
Les Dubow, a Deputy District Attorney who appeared in Judge Brennan’s Municipal Courtroom in El Cajon and was a personal friend, stated that Brennan was “extremely proud of the legal system and his place in it. He was always eager to work. Much to the chagrin of his clerk and bailiff, Michael would walk the halls looking for more cases to handle. He truly loved being a judge. He enjoyed speaking to various civic organizations about the court and the profession. In short, Michael enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed him.” “Michael enjoyed sailing and traveling. He loved to talk about his adventures on the Orient Express, his school days in Ireland, and his quasi archeological expeditions to Rome, Egypt, and Mexico. He was a man on the go, enchanted with life and eager to unlock the mysteries of the past.” He was “the eternal optimist. He was genuinely interested in people and was always on hand to lend aid and comfort to those in need.” (Id.)
“On the bench Michael projected three characteristics: fairness, compassion, and strength of conviction. To quote a well respected member of the defense bar, ‘If you’ve got it coming – stay away from Judge Brennan.’ He quickly earned a reputation for sending more El Cajon defendants to prison than all other Judges, yet time and again defense attorney ‘Arbuckled’ their way to Brennan for that break they so desperately needed for their client.” In one petty theft case, Brennan personally followed the defendant’s progress with weekly, in person, progress reports. (From letters to Dicta).
William Alden Brockett, Jr. I believe in living life to the fullest, or ten o’clock, whichever comes first.
Bill Brockett was born on January 21, 1941. He was a United States Naval Academy graduate and served as a commissioned officer in the Navy. He graduated from Yale Law School and immediately became immersed in criminal law. He worked as a staff attorney with Federal Defenders in San Diego and then with State Defenders, trying numerous criminal cases for the indigent.
After four years as a public defender in San Diego and San Francisco, Brockett took time off to play professional poker and bicycle through Europe. (SF Recorder, 6/18/96). He had diverse interests and was said to be “as happy shooting pool as he was reading poetry.” (Brockett’s brother-in-law and a civil rights lawyer Thomas Meyer) (SF Recorder, 6/18/96). Brockett co-wrote the well-respected CLE book Effective Direct and Cross Examination in 1986 with John Keker.
He had a reputation as a lawyer who was intellectually astute and persuasive before judges and juries. U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, who had known Bill for more than 20 years, regarded him as good on the law and charming in front of a jury.
Bill moved to San Francisco and broadened his practice to include civil litigation. He and John Keker formed the highly respected firm of Keker & Brockett. Both went on to achieve formidable reputations as brilliant and tenacious advocates for their clients. Brockett liked to say that “In the process of building Keker and Brockett, we went from representing bank robbers to bank presidents.” (SF Recorder, 6/18/96).
Bill later became a partner in the Legal Strategies Group of Emeryville. He was a vigorous and committed proponent of nuclear non-proliferation and worked as a volunteer in that cause. He was widely known for his humanity and wit. He died at the untimely age of 55 in Berkeley on June 15, 1996 from a brain tumor.
Upon his passing, members of the Bar commented that “Bill Brockett was a great gentlemen to try a case with and a great gentlemen to try a case against.” (James Brosnahan); “He showed that civility and grace in the practice of law was not and should not be a bygone of the legal community.” (Louise Ma). (SF Recorder, 6/18/96). The Bill Brockett Public Interest Fellowship was established in his honor to fund community outreach projects by recent law school graduates. He left us with many thoughts, including these:
Is there a way to practice law with dignity? I need to care less about winning the trivial battles, more about decency.
Never be gnawed by the rats of remorse.
Charles "Ted" Bumer Ted was a member of the San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer's Club and California Attorney's for Criminal Justice. He died in a car accident on September 11, 1996 at age 72. His obituary stated, quite accurately, he put his life on the line to defend the unpopular.
Charles "Ted" Bumer was born December 13, 1923. He left Kenyon College during World War II to join the Navy, where he served with the underwater demolition team. He earned his B.S. from Cornell and received his J.D. from George Washington University in 1949. He then re-enlisted in the Navy, received training in Coronado and served during the Korean War with the underwater demolition team.
He began to practice law as a sole practitioner in San Diego in 1953. During the Vietnam War, Ted represented political activists who were arrested for protesting the war and conditions in the country. His clients included activists from student groups, Black Panthers, Brown Berets, and women's groups. Ted also represented many individuals in the military who faced court martials and administrative proceedings. In 1982, he represented the first person charged in Federal Court with violating the new registration law, Benjamin Sasway, who refused to register with the Selective Service System. “In our history, we have made heroes of people who have looked the Government in the face and said no.” (quoting Bumer on his client’s stand behind his moral beliefs against the draft)
In 1991, Ted represented Dean Carter in a capital case. Carter was tried for rape and murder of as many as five women. That same year, Bumer represented Navy Officer Robert Nydegger in a retrial of first-degree murder charges following a deadlocked first trial.
In her tribute, Mary E. Harvey wrote that Bumer “was a skillful and thoughtful (inventive) lawyer, and always, unfailingly, a gentleman. His no fee cases, in those days [the 1960s], probably outnumbered his fee cases. These cases ranged from questioning probable cause stops of van drivers with long hair, to complex cases of refusal to register for the draft, etc.” She continued, he “acted on his profound belief in the constitutional rights of individuals. He was witty, broadly read, fun and mentored countless young lawyers.”
Of his Black Panther clients, “60 Minutes” Producer and former editor of the underground San Diego Street Journal in the 1960s, Lowell Bergman stated that “Ted risked destroying his practice by representing rebels. But he never sought the limelight.” “For years, Ted was one of the only attorneys in San Diego who would defend those doing unpopular things. He was involved in a lot of high profile cases without taking a high-profile role.” (SDUT Oct. 1, 1996). He was a tenacious advocate for civil rights, and he wasn’t in it for the money. (Id., citing Judge Frederic Link). Between 1969 and 1973, there was rarely a day when he didn’t appear in a courtroom in San Diego County (making 450 appearances in 250 court days).
The National Lawyers Guild, of which Bumer was a proud member, recognized his life-long fight to protect constitutional rights liberties by creating the Charles T. Bumer Civil Libertarian Award to the Thomas Jefferson Law School student who best personifies the ideals to which he devoted his life.
Hon Edward T. Butler
Ed Butler was born in Michigan in 1918. He worked his way through college, doing odd jobs and serving in the Merchant Marine. In 1941, he graduated from George Washington University. He joined the Marines as a lieutenant, and served in the Pacific during World War II. He received the Bronze Star for his actions during combat at Guadalcanal. The day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima he applied to (and was accepted by) Harvard Law School.
In 1948, he received his law degree from Harvard, and was admitted to the California Bar in 1949. His practice of law was interrupted for two more years of service as a marine officer during the Korean War. He came to San Diego in 1959 to work as general counsel and manager of Electro Instruments, an electric volt meter company.
Ed served as City Attorney of San Diego from 1964 through 1969 before running an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of San Diego in 1971. From 1969 through 1975, he was a partner in the firm of Schall, Butler, Boudreau and Gore. Long an active Democrat, he was rewarded in 1975 with a Superior Court judgeship after co-chairing Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr.'s successful 1974 campaign for governor of California. The San Diego Trial Lawyers Association named him Judge of the Year in 1980 “for his strong and incisive decision-making ability, coupled with humor and compassion.” (Dicta July 1980).
“Butler is widely known for his eloquence, razor sharp wit and occasional equally sharp tongue.” In a profile in 1984, Butler stated that “The law is the last refuge of the free man and woman.” (Dicta Jan. 1984). Judge Butler carried on the tradition started by Judge Dean Sherry of wearing a green robe every St. Patrick’s Day – a tradition continued to this day by Judge Thomas J. Whelan, first in Superior Court and then in the District Court. (100 Years of Justice, Chronicle of the San Diego County Bar Assn, at 99).
Governor Brown elevated Butler to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One in 1982. He served there with distinction, writing scholarly, and often pithy, civil and criminal opinions until he reached the age of 70 in February 1988. Butler, who was a self-described "Edmund Burke liberal" -- conservative on property issues and liberal on individual rights -- remained active in the legal community after his retirement. He worked as legal counsel with a local law firm as well as with Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. as a "rent-ajudge." In 2000, the San Diego City Council proclaimed February 27 “Ed Butler day.”
Butler died in 2003 at the age of 85. Friends and family remember him as an Irish jurist, humorist, and poet who was open-minded, compassionate, and elevated appellate opinion writing to an art form, often quoting from Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. His reputation for fairness, especially in criminal matters, earned him wide respect in the legal community. He left this world on December 23, 2003.
Hon. James Marshall Carter
James Carter was born March 11, 1904, in Santa Barbara, California. He graduated from Pomona College in 1924. Carter played tackle for Pomona against U.S.C. in the first football game held at the Los Angeles Coliseum in October 1923. He attended his first year at Harvard Law, but returned to his native California when he ran out of money. He completed his legal studies at U.S.C., where he was awarded the Order of Coif. U.S.C. was then located at First and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Carter went to law school while simultaneously working as a physical education teacher.
As a lawyer, Carter handled controversial causes in the 1930s. For example, he represented the ACLU, sued the Chief of Police for sending squads of officers to arrest immigrants who did not have enough money, and was active in forming labor unions and negotiating contracts with cost of living increases. “He was a tireless fighter for the rights of the poor and the oppressed.” He served as the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, 1940-1942. The DMV was then in charge of the California Highway Patrol and as Director Carter pioneered fair employment practices and hired the first black highway patrolman.
After his service with the DMV, he returned to private practice in Los Angeles before becoming the Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, 1943-1946, and then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, 1946-1949. He was an extremely competent prosecutor and an able administrator of that office during the troubled times of World War II. While the United States Attorney, Carter successfully prosecuted Tomoya Kawakita, a dual citizen of Japan and the United States, for treason after a ten-week trial in 1948. The case grabbed the nation’s attention as the one of the pair of treason indictments filed after World War II (the other, Iva Toguri D’Aquino, was identified as “Toyko Rose”). Kawakita was employed as an interpreter at a Japanese military prison, and dozens of soldiers testified to the brutal punishments and sadistic torments he inflicted on the weakened men working at the mining camp. There have been only thirty prosecutions for treason, and Kawakita’s conviction remains the last to this day. (LA Times 12/21/01; Kawakita v. United States, 96 F. Supp. 824 (S.D. Cal. 1950), aff’d, 343 U.S. 717 (1952)).
Carter administered the power of his office consistent with Chief Justice Stone’s standard – the United States Attorney should always remember that he was the representative of a sovereignty whose right to govern depended upon its governing justly; that while he could strike hard blows, he should never strike foul ones.
On September 23, 1949, he was nominated by President Harry S. Truman to a new federal judgeship, and received his commission on October 18, 1949. He served as the chief judge from 1966-1967. Carter was instrumental in separating the Southern District of California from the shadow of Los Angeles. From 1929 to 1949, federal judges from Los Angeles presided by assignment in the “Southern Division of the Southern District.” In 1949, Judge Jacob Weinberger was assigned as the first “resident” federal judge in San Diego. Despite the tremendous growth in the region after World War II, and the concomitant increase in the case load, for nine years prior to 1965, the Judicial Conference of the United States opposed the creation of new Districts. Judge Carter is credited with convincing the Judicial Conference to change its position, and despite opposition by some public officials, Congress created the Southern District of California in 1966. Carter, who had moved to San Diego some years earlier, was named the first Chief Judge of the new District until his Circuit appointment the next year.
In addition to the key role he played in the formation of the Southern District, Carter was a leader in the creation of the Federal Defender Project (funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation following the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act of 1964). He selected and appointed the superb lawyers who staffed that unique Project, including Harry Steward, Warren P. Reese, and John Hart Ely, to insure that competent attorneys represented indigents accused of federal crimes. Omnibus criminal pretrial motion procedure and automatic bail review were two of the many the outstanding innovations that Carter brought to the District.
As a District Judge, he sincerely respected the dignity of each individual appearing before him. It was his singular practice to call each defendant into his chambers to explain exactly why he had imposed the specific sentence and what he intended the defendant to do to satisfy the sentence. Another custom, was that Judge Carter would hand each defendant placed on probation an old key to symbolize that he now controlled the “key to the jail” if they wanted to return. Some defendants later returned the key to Judge Carter with thanks. In schoolbook-Spanish, Judge Carter would tell those immigrants charged with illegal entry that he had visited Mexico, had known many of that country’s citizens, and found them to be honorable people. If the defendant raised his hand and promised never to return, Judge Carter would sentence him to probation so that he could be promptly deported.
After eighteen years of distinguished service as a trial judge, Carter was elevated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson.
Throughout his thirty-year judicial career, Carter served with dedication on many national committees concerned with criminal law issues, such as the Committee to Implement the Criminal Justice Act; the American Bar Association’s Subcommittee on Minimum Standards for Criminal Justice; Congress’s Commission to Revise Criminal Laws; and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Carter’s impact on the region extended to education. He was instrumental is the founding of the Law School at the University of San Diego, where he taught for many years. In 1962, the school awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws.
At the many memorials upon Carter’s death, colleagues uniformly complimented his personal characteristics -- which included “a sense of humility that was real and mistakable,” “the most sensible of men; learned, pragmatic, and absolutely without pretense”; natural warmth and compassion; and a commitment to excel -- as well as his professional attributes. “He had all the attributes of a great Judge. He was patient, courteous and respectful of others. He was attentive and he was always prepared.” All agreed that he coupled a keen intellect and analytical mind with a true love of the law, which made this hardworking judge one of the most creative and effective in the nation. Carter was respected for his courageous and decisive rulings which were never arbitrary due to his common sense, integrity, and impartiality. John Sutro, a former appellate law clerk, summed up: “In his day-to-day life, both on and off the bench, he devoted himself to making a reality the high principles to which he adhered. And by doing so, he enriched all our lives.”
Judge Carter served on the Circuit until November 18, 1979, when he passed away. The San Diego Union editorial, “The Law is Loser,” stated: “Circuit Judge James M. Carter, whose sudden, unexpected death Sunday stunned the community and the legal profession, successfully defied the bleak observation that life ends for most persons as a battered shipwreck. He departed under full sail, with colors flying.”
George Woodman Clarke
George “Woody” Clarke was born in San Diego on May 10, 1951. He grew up in the suburbs east of San Diego and was graduated from Grossmont High School in La Mesa. He received a bachelor's degree from UC San Diego in 1977. He initially worked in the courts as a research attorney and then decided to join the DA's Office in 1982. He stayed there for 22 years.
Woody, as he was known, was co-prosecutor in the trial involving the murder of Danielle Van Dam. The defendant was convicted and sent to death row. Woody also helped prosecute David Allen Lucas who was convicted of killing three people. He handled many other serious cases in San Diego. He was a pioneer in the forensic use of DNA and was called upon nationally by other prosecutors to assist in cases. In the mid-1990s, he was asked to help in Los Angeles in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. In addition to many other awards, he was named the 2003 Outstanding Prosecutor of the Year by the California District Attorneys Association and 2003 Prosecutor of the Year by the San Diego District Attorneys Association.
"He championed the use of DNA science in the criminal justice system for a number of years," said Superior Court Judge Christopher Plourd, a former defense attorney. "He was a major force behind getting it accepted and used-both for protecting people who were innocent, and convicting people who were guilty."
In 2008 he compiled his career of courtroom experiences into the book, "Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence." He was appointed to the U.S. Department of Justice Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. In 2002, he was named to the U.S. Attorney General Initiative on DNA Laboratory Backlogs. He was also instrumental in helping propose several legislative improvements to California criminal law. In the San Diego DA's Office, he helped establish an in-house "innocence project" that offered DNA testing to convicted defendants in certain cases.
In 2003, George Clarke was appointed San Diego Superior Court judge. He served on the bench until his death on November 13, 2012. Robert Trentacosta, presiding judge of the San Diego Superior Court, stated, "Our court was so truly blessed to have him as a colleague. He was talented and yet so humble. He was the quintessential gentleman."
Woody Clarke was a man of compassion, faith, humor, and intellect. He was highly regarded by all.
E. Stanley Conant Tom Adler, one of the young attorneys Stan hired, wrote of him: “It was early in 1973. I’d been a lawyer less than a year and was learning the ropes as a staff attorney at the Defenders Program in San Diego. The head of the office was a fiery old Irish trial lawyer, Stan Conant, who didn’t try cases any longer but was content administering the office and trying to keep his flock of young attorneys from getting into too much trouble. He was widely respected by everyone in and out of the office as having tried 16 death penalty cases and losing only one. He never talked about the wins but often recalled the one he lost by recounting the moment that the jury filed into the courtroom with their verdict and all twelve were crying. Every time he told the story he had the same pained look on his face. He was a guy who really cared. The story always ended with his face breaking into a smile as he wryly said, “It was reversed on appeal.”
Stanley Conant was a native of San Diego and a graduate of UCLA and then Loyola Law School. He served for three years as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego and then entered private practice, where his practice focused exclusively in the defense of criminal cases.
He was a dedicated and skilled defense attorney. He represented many serious cases, including homicides in which the death penalty was sought. For example, Conant, who was appointed for purposes of the direct appeal to the California Supreme Court, successfully reduced a death sentence to a second degree murder conviction for Raymond Goedecke, a mentally-disturbed teenager who had killed his father, mother, brother, and sister. (People v. Goedecke, 65 Cal.2d 850 (1967)).
When he entered private practice there was no public defender in San Diego. Thus, the defense of indigents depended on lawyers in private practice such as Stan to shoulder that responsibility, to which he generously devoted his time. The respect he garnered among his peers was demonstrated when the Defender Program was launched. He served as the Assistant Director until 1969, when he was appointed the Executive Director.
The high regard in which Stan was held by the legal community was memorialized after his death by the establishment of the E. Stanley Conant award. This award recognizes a defense attorney who has distinguished him/herself in the “unselfish dedication to protecting the rights of the indigent accused.”
Hon. Robert W. Conyers
Robert Whaley Conyers was born on September 5, 1917 in the small farming community of Cando, North Dakota. Conyer’s grandfather was among the pioneer settlers who named the town “to show you that we can do it.” In 1919, his father bought a lemon grove in Chula Vista. Conyers worked in the orchard every summer through his last year of law school. He graduated from Sweetwater High School during the height of the Great Depression. He attended San Diego State College (now SDSU), which had just relocated to its new campus on Montezuma Mesa. Conyers graduated with a B.A. in business administration in 1938. He then moved north to attend the University of California’s Berkeley Law School. He was a member of Phi Delta Phi – a prestigious international legal fraternity open to those “whose moral compass, academic ability, and personal integrity is beyond reproach.” World War II interrupted his legal career. He traveled the United States as an FBI special agent investigating domestic espionage cases. Once the war ended, Conyers entered private practice with his friend Lowell Davies, who had just become President of the Board of Directors for the Old Globe Theatre. After three years, he joined the larger firm of Higgs, Fletcher, and Mack. He took “whatever walked in the door,” including the defense of an osteopathic physician who stole a newborn after telling the mother that the child died.
In 1957, Conyers was called as a defense witness in the notorious Ruth Latham kidnapping and attempted murder trial. The two women accused of burying Mrs. Latham alive in the desert shifted attention to the victim’s husband, a wealthy investment manager with an unsavory past. Based upon his experience as a FBI agent, Conyers testified that George Latham had a “bad” reputation in the community. The defendants were acquitted.
Conyers served as President of the San Diego County Bar Association in 1958.
In 1959, Governor “Pat” Brown appointed Conyers to the Superior Court. The docket reflected the rapid growth of the region. Each judge disposed of over 1,000 cases a year. Civil cases waited more than a year for a jury trial. The backlog was complicated by space limitations – there were 17 departments but only 10 courtrooms. To handle the overflow, the court remodeled the second floor of the San Diego Hotel (the current site of the federal court annex). There, Conyers took the oath of office on October 1, 1959. His then-father-in-law, Municipal Court Judge Eugene C. Haney Jr. spoke on Conyers’ behalf: “He is a man of many parts. He will bring to the court the zeal and zest of youth tempered with human kindness.” (SD Union 10/2/59)
In 1964, he was appointed to the Superior Court Appellate Department, which reviewed cases from the municipal and justice courts. In 1976, he was named presiding judge of that department. But Conyers preferred trial work, where he “deal[t] directly with the human problem” that was the “life blood of the law.” (SD Union 10/10/76). When critics complained that judges were too soft on crime, Judge Conyers responded with these eloquent words:
We are charged with keeping the balance between the prosecutor’s zeal and the defendant’s soul; the victim’s cry and the wrongdoer’s tears; and the balance between the taxpayers’ purse and the taxpayers’ outrage. We can only say to you that within the limits of our own humanity, our own outrage, and our own tears, we are working professionally to accomplish a peaceful, secure society for all of us.
During his twenty years on the bench, he handled major murder, rape, and fraud cases. He presided over several capital cases, including the second penalty trial of Robert Anderson (the case in which the California Supreme Court would find that the death penalty violated the State Constitution), and the bench trial of the handyman who brutally murdered retired stage actress Marie Chapman. Judge Conyers also handled the Yellow Cab scandal. After being acquitted of bribery, Mayor Curran pilloried the grand jury. Judge Conyers took the unusual step of calling a news conference to defend the honest and “good citizens” who served “without any political motive or ambition” against the Mayor’s “invective.” (SD Union 1971). Conyers also criticized the White House for preventing an IRS agent from testifying about public corruption. (SD Union 10/10/76)
In 1971, Judge Conyers held a “public morals” statute unconstitutional as applied to adult movies shown at the Gaiety Theater. In 1974, Judge Conyers dismissed an action charging two men with oral copulation as a “public offense” on the ground that it was private, non-harmful adult conduct. People v. Baldwin, 37 Cal. App. 3d 385 (1974) (reversed on appeal).
Shortly before retiring in 1979, Conyers presided over the eight-month jury trial of C. Arnholdt Smith. Smith had been a prominent civic leader, owner of the Padres franchise, and a close adviser to Richard Nixon. The jury convicted Smith of embezzling $8.9 million from his own United States National Bank. Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund recalls the sentencing hearing when Judge Conyers looked the defendant in the eye and said, "Mr. Smith, you are a crook." "That simple, blunt remark was very important. The people of San Diego wanted to hear it. That was a great relief to the thousands of defrauded investors,” according to Judge Ehrenfreund. (SDUT 12/3/11).
He was known for his keen sense of humor. Conyers believed that a “light joke” could break the inevitable tension in the courtroom. “So long as you don’t make a joke at anyone’s expense” and treat matters “consistent with the underlying dignity and purposefulness,” Conyers believed everyone benefitted. (SD Union 10/10/76). Judge Louis M. Welsh observed that “his opinions are pithy and frequently witty.” (SD Union 9/29/79). All of his colleagues agreed that Conyers was “a legal scholar,” “very bright,” and “a real gentleman.” (Id.) Judge Conyers looked forward to retirement with his third wife, a former court reporter. “I have an enormous appetite for so many things in life that I’ve never had time to taste.” (Id.)
Judge William B. Enright describes Conyers as one of the “most brilliant and wisest jurists in San Diego County.” As a prosecutor and defense attorney, Enright "tried many serious criminal cases in front of Judge Conyers, and I had enormous respect for him. We do a lot of very hard things to people when we sentence them, but the thing I learned from Judge Conyers is that I would never, never do anything to diminish the dignity and self-respect of the man I was sentencing. He was always very fair. He was very conscious of the rights of a defendant and also society's right to be protected against barbarism." (SDUT 12/3/11).
Conyers died at the age of 94 on November 27, 2011. He has one son, Jeffrey, from his first marriage.
Gene Dukette His life was a compelling portrait of a thoroughly good and decent man – a man of great honor in his profession.
One of the trusted and loyal associates of the capable and long-time District Attorney Thomas Whelan. He served as a Deputy District Attorney under both Tom Whelan and James Don Keller.
His early years were spent as a civil trial lawyer in the Los Angeles area. He had a flourishing practice and represented many prominent theatrical personages of the 1930s and early 1940s. Seeking a change in his practice, and challenged by the remarkably gifted Thomas Whelan, Dukette entered public service as a prosecutor.
His courtly manner and affable personality made him a force to be reckoned with in the trial courts of the county. He tried every kind of criminal case with great success over his lengthy career. His modesty, deference, and innate kindness impacted the lives of all who knew him. Dukette’s influence on other prosecutors in his office was legendary.
At the time of his passing in August 1962, he was remembered in Dicta – the sole lawyer magazine of the time, in the following language: “Not long ago there was a squib in the column about the lunch meeting arranged and held by a group of friends of Gene Dukette. It was a pleasant affair, and in retrospect takes on an added glow. By now you have all heard of Duke’s death late in August, and those of us who were present to greet him at the lunch are delighted that we held the function at the time and in the manner that we did. One of the high points was a description by Duke himself at how he felt to be among his friends and associates, swapping stories and recalling old times. The atmosphere was nostalgic without being maudlin, and Duke said that it was akin to a description he once heard applied to the act of making love: you have a lot of fun, but nobody laughs. All of us who have been associated with the D.A.’s office during the time Duke was there, as well as many whom he opposed in trial through the years, will think of Duke with only the warmest of memories. Our profession will never be so over-stocked with good men that we can afford to lose one such as Duke.” (Dicta, October 1962, p.12).
Hon. Thomas Graham Duffy
Judge Duffy, a long-time resident of East County, was a graduate of Grossmont High School, San Diego State University and Hastings College of Law. He served as City Attorney for the City of El Cajon while in private practice. He was appointed to the El Cajon Municipal Court in 1967 by Governor Ronald Reagan and to the Superior Court in 1980 by Governor Jerry Brown. He served with enthusiasm and commitment and was Presiding Judge of both courts.
While an El Cajon Municipal Court Judge he engaged with the Supervising Deputy District Attorney to create a diversion and education program for young persons arrested for petty theft-shoplifting. This coordination also produced a “drunk driving” program for first time offenders which included deferred prosecution based upon alcohol treatment and awareness programs, commitment to 90 AA meetings in 90 days all prior to the State’s enactment of “SB-38”. The efforts in dealing with alcohol related offenses led to pre-sentencing screenings and programs that touched not only the offenders but those of their families.
Ever the innovator, Judge Duffy encouraged the early disposition of criminal cases both prior to and after the preliminary examination. The success of this program, again in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office, led to the court coordination demonstration known as the “El Cajon Experiment.” The success of this effort led to the ultimate unification of the Municipal and Superior Courts statewide.
Judge Duffy was a tireless worker and an innovator. He had a complete honesty and good-heartedness about him which complimented his dedication to an efficient and fair system of justice. One anecdote: On request of defense counsel Judge Duffy permitted the defendant to sit in the audience to test the ability of the witness to identify the suspect. When asked to identify the suspect the witness said that she could do so, it was the one man in the back with his hand raised.
John Hart Ely He went on to serve as dean of Stanford Law School from 1982 to 1987, and remained on the faculty until 1996. He moved to the University of Miami School of Law in 1996 and was on its faculty when he died of cancer, aged 64. At the time of his death, his son Robert D. Ely stated that “He fought hard for those people who were under-represented in government because of their race, religion, and their economic or political situation. That is what he stood for.” (Miami Herald, 10/27/03).
John Ely was born in New York City and raised in both California and New York. He served in the U.S. Army and graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School. As a summer clerk at Arnold, Fortas, & Porter, a Washington, D.C. law firm, he assisted Abe Fortas in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1961). Ely wrote a first draft of a brief on behalf of Clarence Earl Gideon, a Florida drifter who had been tried and convicted without a lawyer. As recounted in the famous book Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis, Gideon had scrawled his petition for certiorari from a prison cell in his own handwriting. The Supreme Court ruled in Gideon's favor.
He studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science as a Fulbright Scholar the year before he moved to San Diego and was employed by Defenders, Inc. Ely served as the second youngest staff member of the Warren Commission (at age 25), which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He went on to clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren on the Supreme Court, whom he considered a hero, and to whom he dedicated his landmark book, Democracy and Distrust (1980).
For a brief time in the 1960's, John Ely worked in San Diego with Defenders, Inc. Joining the faculty of Yale Law School in 1968, and moving to Harvard Law School in 1973, Ely wrote several influential law review articles. Ely's most notable work was his 1980 book Democracy and Distrust, which ranks as one of the most influential works about Constitutional law ever written. In it, he argues against "interpretivism" of which Hugo Black was an exponent, "originalism" advanced by Robert Bork, and "textualism" advanced by Antonin Scalia. His contention was "strict construction" fails to do justice to the open texture of many of the Constitution's provisions. At the same time, though, he maintains that the notion that judges may infer broad moral rights and values from the Constitution is radically undemocratic whether the "moralism" of Ronald Dworkin or the libertarian Richard Epstein. Instead, Ely argued the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution so as to reinforce democratic processes and popular self-government. This interpretation style ensured equal representation in the political process. Kathleen Sullivan described Ely’s Democracy and Distrust as “a masterpiece that combines elegant theory, raffish wit and a heartfelt search to get the role of the Supreme Court in American democracy just right.” (LA Times, 11/2/03).
A former student in his constitutional law class described Ely as “deeply read, witty, unaffected, plain-speaking, creative, and pragmatically wise.” (Daniel Kornstien, New York Law Journal, 9/23/93).
Clifford K. Fitzgerald
Clifford Fitzgerald was born in Chicago in 1896. The family moved to San Diego in 1904. He attended Sherman grammar school and the San Diego Army and Navy Academy. He graduated as a senior cadet officer with the rank of Captain and Adjutant. Clifford graduated from Officers Training School in San Fernando and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. After leaving the service, he studied law at the University of Southern California. He was admitted to the Bar in 1920. Clifford practiced law with his wife, an attorney, and his brother, later the Honorable Roy Fitzgerald.
Clifford was a trial lawyer par excellence, a defense counsel always in demand. A great cross-examiner, he was noted for his defense skills in the local military unit. He achieved an outstanding reputation as a trial lawyer – especially noted for his ability to conduct comprehensive voir dire examinations of prospective jurors that laid the groundwork for his defense case. He was thought to have no equal in this regard. In one celebrated case involving a state public official accused of taking kickbacks from his secretary’s salary, Fitzgerald’s masterful voir dire examination of a large panel of jurors and a creative defense of “a woman scorned” led to an very unexpected acquittal. Who can say as to the justice of the decision given the strong paper trail of invoices and the secretary’s testimony against her boss, but the lawyerly skills on behalf of his client was amply demonstrated.
His representation was particularly sought by members of the United States Naval Service. Both officers and enlisted personnel retained Fitzgerald’s services in general court martial proceedings, as well as in the civilian courts. He had the very unique characteristic of demonstrating his concern for his client’s welfare by invariably sitting patiently in the back of the trial courtroom with his client to await the jury’s decision. Whether that be hours or days, Fitzgerald would sit alone until the final resolution of the matter.
He left his mark on all who witnessed his court presence, his remarkable abilities, and his high professional standards. He passed away on April 4, 1971.
William R. "Bill" Fletcher Fletcher was active with the San Diego County Bar Association and served as President of the Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Club.
William "Bill" Fletcher was born October 9, 1949 in Downey, California and grew up in Southern California. Bill received his J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1975. He began representing indigent criminal defendants in state court as a staff attorney for the Defenders Program of San Diego, Inc. In 1979, Bill went into private practice representing both indigents and retained clients in the state and federal court.
His law partner, C. Bradley Patton, described the sharp legal mind that lurked behind Fletcher’s laid-back demeanor: “He was a folksy kind of guy who could lull you into believing he was a good ‘ol boy,’ then he would hit you over the head with a key piece of evidence.” (SDUT 3/25/06). “One of the remarkable things about Bill was that he was friends with many prosecutors, along with Sheriff’s deputies, judges, and court personnel. Most criminal defense lawyers hunker down with their own kind. It’s unusual that an individual can set aside day-to-day issues and reach out to the other side. But it came naturally to Bill.” (Id.) “Bill was a people’s attorney and an attorney’s attorney.” (Id. quoting Patricia Robinson).
The Criminal Defense Bar Association of San Diego named Fletcher as Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year in 1988 and again in 2005. His distinguished record of high profile cases including defending Richard Tuite, a mentally-disturbed transient, of killing twelve-year old Stephanie Crowe throughout a complex, six-year legal battle. In 2000, he defended teenager Danielle Barcheers in her retrial for the stabbing death of Betty Carroll. In 1990, he represented a former teacher’s aide who paid two Escondido high school students to kill her husband and persuaded the jury to reject the death penalty. He tried countless complex rape, murder, and other serious felony cases throughout the county.
Hon. Earl B. Gilliam Judge Gilliam received the Wiley A. Branton Award from the National Bar Association in 1997. In 1998 he received the Judicial Pioneer Award from the California Association of Black Lawyers. He was also inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame which honors lawyers who have been licensed to practice for forty years or more and have made a significant contribution to the cause of justice.
Born in Clovis, New Mexico, Gilliam’s family moved to Oklahoma City during the depths of the Depression. In 1941, during the military buildup to World War II, his family brought him in the fifth grade to San Diego, where he spent the rest of his life near his family home on Imperial Avenue. The home was not far from his father’s business, which imported fresh water fish from Louisiana to sell to wholesalers, restaurants, and customers. He attended San Diego High School, where he was involved in gymnastics, football, basketball, and track. He would later open his private practice in the 2800 block of Imperial Avenue. Throughout his life, Gilliam would stroll that neighborhood greeting the many friends and residents. In 2005, the Post Office named its Imperial Avenue branch in his honor.
Earl Gilliam received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Diego State College in 1953 and J.D. from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco in 1957. That same year he began his legal career as a deputy district attorney in the San Diego District Attorney Office. In 1961, Gilliam went into private practice. He handled many pro bono criminal defense cases from his office, which he described as one of the first “storefront” law firms.
He became a judge of the San Diego Municipal Court in 1963. In an interview, he recalled that his appointment was “quite a thing because there were only three black lawyers in the City. There was a question in those days whether white litigants who stood before a black judge would have confidence in his decisions. I like to think I dispelled that concern.”
In 1975 was elevated to the San Diego Superior Court. He served until 1980. He was appointed “the day after he turned 44.” He served as presiding judge for criminal cases.
In 1980, he was appointed to be a judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of California, by President Jimmy Carter. In 1993, he attained senior status. He found the federal court more “solemn” than the “exciting and interesting state courts.” In an 1983 interview he told Dicta that he “gets excited in the morning when he comes to work.” “He’s gregarious, committed to devoting significant energy to community service, and has long been digging into scholarly activities that take him regularly to local university campuses. The judge likes life.” (Dicta Nov. 1983).
Judge Gilliam presided over several noteworthy federal criminal cases, including complex white collar crimes such as the National Health Laboratories settlement of $110 million in fines for health care billing and the Telink kickback trial; Del Mar Mayor Nancy Hoover Hunter’s fraud and tax evasion trial, which was related to the Dominelli Ponzi scheme; the bad checking writing case of sportscaster “Fast Eddie”; and the controversial, acrimonious prosecution of a local criminal defense attorney who got too close to his client. He was the judge in the civil case that led to the landmark Daubert standard that allowed judges greater latitude in determining the admissibility of scientific evidence.
As a sentencing judge, he was known for his compassion, his dedication to trying to understand the individual in front of him, and his leniency for first-time offenders. He was respected for his ability to explain the sentence imposed to defendants and their families in a manner that kept them from feeling bitter toward the criminal justice system. Judge Judith Keep related that Judge Gilliam “made everyone who appeared before him feel the warmth of his soul and the breadth of his humanity.” (San Diego Lawyer, June 2001).
Judge Gilliam was a law professor at Western State College of Law, an instructor in urban and rural studies at the University of California at San Diego and a guest lecturer at the United States International University.
Judge Gilliam has been honored with many awards during his legal career, including Young Man of the Year, San Diego Chamber of Commerce (1965); Citizen of the Year for San Diego (1973 and 1994); Good Guy Award for San Diego (1974); Golden Man of the Year, Boy’s Club of San Diego (1981); Trial Judge of the Year, San Diego Trial Lawyers Association (1981); and the San Diego High School Wall of Honor (1994). He was named Legal Professional of the Year by the San Diego County Bar Association (1994). In 2003, the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association erected a memorial plaque in the Hall of Justice.
Judge Gilliam’s community and civic activities were many. In 1982, the Association of Black Attorneys of San Diego County which was formed in 1976, formerly changed its name to the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association in his honor. He was the first black American U.S. District judge for the Southern District of California as well as the first black American judge to serve as a San Diego County Superior Court judge. Today, the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association represents the interests of over 300 African-American lawyers, judges, law professors and students as well as the African-American community in San Diego.
Leslie Jane Hahn
Born in December 1960, Jane Hahn passed away in July 2006. She was born in Duluth, Minnesota as Leslie Jane Smith, but grew up in the State of Washington. She was a natural athlete, and in high school was rated the number one female swimmer in the 100-yard freestyle in the nation. She attended Harvard University, where she was an All American swimmer and graduated with high honors. Thereafter, she attended the University of Chicago Law School, where she met her future husband, and graduated in 1986.
She started her legal career at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. After several years, she was appointed Assistant United States Attorney in 1990, and she served in that office until 1994. She thereafter returned to private practice with Hovey, Kirby & Thornton, defending both civil and criminal cases. She was described by her associates and adversaries as a dynamic and fearless trial lawyer. Hahn was extremely conscientious. She tried several very difficult, complex fraud cases, and was thoroughly respected by the judges in front of whom she tried cases both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. After her work as a prosecutor, she very ably defended white collar crimes and handled Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement actions.
She died at the young age of 45. She never allowed personal considerations to enter into her professional responsibilities, even during her final and untimely illness. She continued her representations and never diminished her responsibility and obligations to her clients. She is recognized as outstanding by her peers – the highest accolade one can receive in their professional life. Her untimely passing was mourned by the entire bench and bar of San Diego.
Hon. Ben W. Hamrick
Each day in Ben Hamrick’s courtroom started the same way. He would open the door, take on step inside the courtroom, and face the flag. “All rise,” the bailiff said, “facing the flag of our country, and remembering the principles for which it stands, Department 35, the Honorable Ben Hamrick presiding, is now in session. Be seated and come to order.”
In eighteen years on the bench, remembering the principles for which the flag stood – treating people equally, with dignity and respect, ensuring both sides received a fair trial, following the law regardless of whether the consequences were popular, and having the courage to stand for what was right – were the hallmarks of Judge Hamrick’s career.
No doubt, the 35 combat missions he flew in a B-17 over Germany during World War II contributed to his toughness and courage, but his humble beginnings probably contributed to his easy-going nature and sense of place. Nothing about him conveyed a sense of self-importance. He just suited up and did the job, whether it meant putting on a parachute or a judicial robe.
His mother died giving birth to him on May 22, 1924 in Kokomo, Indiana. He was raised by relatives Ben and Charolette Hamrick in San Diego. After his service with the Army Air Corps, he went to San Diego State, then Hastings Law School, and became a member of the bar in 1951. For many years, he was an insurance defense lawyer before becoming a Superior Court judge in 1973.
Many would have expected that with his background Judge Hamrick would have been assigned to handle civil cases. Yet, when the most divisive criminal case in San Diego’s history – the trial of black teenager Sagon Penn for killing a San Diego police officer – exploded onto the scene in the mid 1980's, Hamrick was selected as trial judge.
“The procedure was a little unusual,” Penn’s lawyer, Milt Silverman, later explained. “The presiding judge summoned the prosecutor and myself to his chambers, and read off the names of the top five trial judges on the bench. Hamrick was the only one both of us agreed on.” Federal District Court Judge William Enright, himself once a renowned criminal defense lawyer, called Judge Hamrick a “man of great integrity” who “made sure that individual rights were protected.”
He also maintained his sense of humor. During the Penn case, while questioning one juror, Silverman noticed the juror had served in the “Air Force” during World War II while living in Berlin.
“You were in the Lutwaffe?” “Yes,” replied the juror. “Oh,” Silverman said, pointing, “Have you two met each other in passing?” Judge Hamrick leaned back in his chair and smiled.
Judge Hamrick looked forward to criminal trials, which he considered to be an exciting field and where a judge could make a very substantial contribution to the community. As the conscience of the people to a large extent, Hamrick possessed the qualities of a good listener, complete fairness, and an understanding of the problems of both the litigants and the lawyers appearing in his courtroom. (Dicta March 1974). He brought to the “bench ... a wealth of experience, practice and a high degree of human understanding.” (Id.)
Mary Eleanor Harvey
Born in 1920 in Leon, Iowa, she attended the University of Chicago obtaining an undergraduate degree in history. She then joined the American Red Cross during World War II, serving as an administrator at hospitals in Germany, Austria, Berma and India. She worked for marketing companies in New York and Seattle before moving to San Diego as the general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Union.
Mary worked all day, and attended the University of San Diego School of Law at night, graduating in 1961 as the first woman graduate. Thirty seven years later the law school honored her by naming her a “Distinguished Graduate.”
Mary was admitted to the bar at a time when there were 63 women lawyers in San Diego. She found obtaining a job to be a challenge. The District Attorney’s office did not hire women as prosecutors, and many law firms were reluctant to hire women. Mary opened her own practice, devoted primarily to criminal defense as well as family and probate law. She practiced in San Diego as a solo practitioner for 30 years.
During the Vietnam War, Mary Harvey represented street protesters arrested for loitering, and successfully challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional. Mary was active in the San Diego County Bar Association, serving on 18 committees, and was a member of the State Bar Commission for Judicial Nominees. She devoted many hours to civil rights work, and served on the legal panel for the San Diego Chapter of the ACLU for 20 years.
Referred to by friends as a warm and friendly woman, she was known to invite a collection of musicians, artists, bullfighters and beach bums to her house for parties. She was heard to say she was proud her civil rights work in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the FBI opening a file on her. Mary Eleanor Harvey died on May 9, 2007.
Hon. Benjamin Ignatius Hayes
Judge Hayes was born February 14, 1815 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended St. Mary’s College and was admitted to the Maryland Bar at the age of 24.
He first practiced law in Liberty, Missouri and from there relocated to Los Angeles in about 1850. In Los Angeles he had a small law practice but was enthusiastically supported for the position of District Court Judge when the position was vacated by Oliver S. Witherby. Judge Hayes was elected as the second judge for the District Court of Southern California, District One which served the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino.
Judge Hayes held court sessions in San Diego beginning the third Monday of April, August and December. He traveled to court either on horseback or by carriage and to San Diego via the steamer “Senator”. After his election as judge he relocated to San Diego from Los Angeles.
Judge Hayes held an important place in the administration of justice in the transition from Mexican rule through the early years of California Statehood. He had translated the laws of the First California Legislature into Spanish for use in his court. When he left the Bench he was elected to the State Assembly having served as Assistant District Attorney in San Diego.
He was a respected jurist. His avocation was gathering whatever he could about the history of Southern California. When his public life ended he became a trusted associate of H. H. Bancroft who was writing the history of California. Published by his son, County Judge J. Chauncey Hayes, was a book of notes from the Judge’s diaries which gave insight not only to the man but his times (Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1849-1875).
Judge Hayes died August 4, 1877 while on a visit to Los Angeles. Jurist, politician, public servant and historian were his life’s work, but without the vanity that often accompanies such achievements.
Marie M. Herney In a remembrance article, District Attorney John Barnett recalled a case against two defendants who had been involved in a brawl. Herney’s first question to the co-defendant was, “Do you have a hand gun in your pocket right now?” The co-defendant removed the gun from his pocket and laid it on the bench, then asked, “Why pick on me? He has one too,” pointing to Herney’s client. The bailiff searched the defendant and produced a gun. Once the artillery was removed, the trial proceeded. Barnett described how Herney illustrated the fight in her closing argument: “she grabbed me around the upper part of my torso and slung me across her hip, causing me to describe a modest arc through the air which landed me flat on my butt at her feet.” The judge thought it was great, and years later, the attorneys laughed about the episode. (Dicta, Aug. 1984). An aggressive and talented trial attorney Marie Herney lived a full life of service to the San Diego Community. She died May 9, 1984.
Marie Herney was born February 2, 1908 in Deshler, Nebraska. She graduated from San Diego State and attended law school at the University of Nebraska. Marie was the first woman Deputy District Attorney for the County of San Diego (1932). She later became known internationally as a legal authority on and promoter of women’s rights. When she passed the California Bar, the San Diego Sun headlined its article as “Girl Among Five in City to Pass State Bar Tests.” (Lawyer’s Club).
Marie entered private practice after 18 months in the District Attorney’s Office. As a criminal defense lawyer the papers continued to headline her accomplishments, for example, “Former U of Nebraska Coed Wins Her First Case as Lawyer.” (Id.) She was the first woman from San Diego admitted to practice before the Federal District Court for the Southern District of California and the United States Supreme Court. She was the only woman member of the Civil Service Commission between 1938 and 1951 when she resigned to devote more time to her legal practice. A member of the International Federation of Woman Lawyers, she worked on projects of the United Nations in India, Karachi, Pakistan, Iran and Mexico City.
Marie shared her knowledge and experience through lectures and seminars on the status of women, on problems of equal opportunity, on equal job classification and equal pay for equal work. She was a role model and mentor for female lawyers entering the profession in the 1960s, and was a driving force in the opening of employment opportunities in the City and County legal departments in 1967 and 1968. (Id.)
One of the more interesting cases was the defense of an attractive woman charged with the crime of adultery. While now not defined as a crime, in 1947 it was a criminal act. The prosecution presented evidence from the private investigator who had followed the woman and her companion to a hotel in National City. The investigator trailed the couple to a room and through the transom took a flash picture. Marie carefully questioned the PI who acknowledged he had only seen this one liaison. She put no defense evidence on but simply asked for a dismissal of the charges. The Penal Code defined adultery as a course of conduct. Since there was only one event, she won her motion.
Marie, although keeping Herney as her professional name was married to Edwin A. Mueller who had helped found the American Field Service (an ambulance service during World War I) and which later became a foreign student exchange program. Mueller was twice mayor of El Cajon as well as serving the State Legislature and Senate.
Hon. Edgar Bedillion Hervey
Edgar Hervey’s mother brought him to Los Angeles in 1909 from Wheeling, West Virginia after his father died. He received a scholarship which allowed him to attend USC after winning a high school speaking contest. He continued to win championships with his debating skills at U.S.C. When the First World War broke out he volunteered and served in the Tank Corps in France. After the armistice, he attended two semesters at the University of Lyons. He then returned to Los Angeles, where he clerked for a Superior Court Judge and attended law school at USC. He married and then moved to El Centro in 1922, where he later served as a police judge.
In 1928 he moved to San Diego and became a successful criminal defense attorney, earning a reputation as a strong, colorful trial lawyer with a photographic memory. His arguments often incorporated quotes from works like Shakespeare and the Bible. Superior Court Judge James Toothacre called Hervey “probably one of the best-cross examiners San Diego ever had.” Hervey ranks among the best criminal defense lawyers San Diego ever produced. His great ability as an advocate hampered him somewhat when he became a judge, because “he was a real advocate all his life and remained one once he got on the bench,” which some who appeared before him did not consider a virtue. As a criminal defense trial lawyer, he was highly skilled and “raised the bar” for later generations of trial lawyers.
In 1958, he was appointed to the Superior Court, where he served with distinction until his retirement. Among them was Judge Hervey’s son, Jim Hervey, who later became one of the best civil trial lawyers San Diego has ever seen.
Jack Hochman completed his law degree at San Francisco Law School in 1976 and interned with the Public Defender in San Francisco, the beginning of his lifelong love of indigent criminal defense. He maintained a private practice in San Francisco for more than a decade before moving to San Diego in 1986. He began full time criminal defense practice with Defenders, Inc. and he became one of the first attorneys hired for the newly formed San Diego County Public Defender's Office in 1988, where he remained until his retirement in 2011.
"Jack was a Public Defender in heart and soul, with passion and dedication to the indigent client that was unparalleled," said Henry C. Coker, head Public Defender for San Diego County. "He was a humanitarian and had the innate ability to touch the hearts of his listeners and to sway the minds of those he encountered. The number of lives he affected is immeasurable, and our community has lost a tremendous individual."
His wife of 25 years, Kay L. Sunday, also a criminal defense attorney in San Diego, said "Jack was passionate about his work, especially trial work, and was never happier than when in trial. He was considered a lawyer's lawyer, a formidable opponent and he mentored many young lawyers, something he very much enjoyed and which was very important to him. He represented four people charged with the death penalty during his career, none of whom are on death row today, as a result of his zealous work on their behalf."
Jack had many outright ‘Not Guilty’ verdicts, an amazing percentage of them on life top cases. To Rebecca Jones, a colleague, his most impressive results were the verdicts he obtained in murder cases. He seemed to excel in obtaining manslaughter verdicts. On one capital case, he convinced a judge to preclude death altogether, for a speedy trial/ due process violation. Jack lived the mantra that avoiding penalty phase altogether is always best.
Jack battled tirelessly in the '90s for reforms in the application of the "Three Strikes" law and argued successfully on behalf of a client whose third strike - stealing a can of beer - would have put the 18-year-old behind bars for life. He wrote the first Public Defender motion challenging three strikes. It became an accepted part of the Public Defender practice to file Jack's motion in any non-homicide life case.
In 2007, Jack received the Trial Attorney of the Year Award from the Board of Directors of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association, an organization of which he had been president from 1999 to 2000. He was considered to be an outstanding trial attorney and outstanding mentor to younger attorneys in his office. Many experienced attorneys within the criminal defense community praised him as extraordinarily passionate about criminal defense and compassionate for his clients.
John Thomas Holt
John T. Holt was born Giovano Silva Holt on September 4, 1902 in Lebanon Missouri, the son of English-French parents. He was raised in the hardscrabble, steel mill town of Pueblo, Colorado. He graduated from law school at the University of Colorado School of Law at Boulder in 1929 and arrived in San Diego with one suit and a promise of a $75 a month law practice. He almost never arrived. Torn between a career in law and theater, he often quipped that he wound up practicing law because he just happened to catch the train going to the west coast instead of the east to New York’s theaters.
After arriving, his talents as a public speaker were almost instantly recognized by Tom Whelan, who was running for District Attorney. He paid Holt $25 to make speeches for him. After Whelan was elected, Holt went to work in the D.A.’s office, quickly cementing a reputation as a top prosecutor. Holt was President of the SD County Bar Association in 1936.
He may well have joined the ranks of a career prosecutor with an admirable but forgettable career had it not been for a fellow named George Hewitt whom Holt prosecuted for armed robbery. Hewitt swore he was innocent, but a cab driver positively identified him as the culprit, and Hewitt was convicted.
One day, two sailors just back from sea showed up in Holt’s office and told him Hewitt was with them at the time of the robbery. Holt checked it out, found they were telling the truth, and got Hewitt released. The experience was an epiphany. Holt switched sides, and criminal defense in San Diego would never be the same.
Voices which speak to us from aging newspaper clippings tell us Holt’s contemporaries viewed him in a rare and unique class. They speak of him in the same breath with truly legendary lawyers, like New York’s Bill Fallon or L.A’s Earl Rogers. San Diego District Attorney Tom Whelan once said “Johnny Holt is as good as [famous San Francisco trial lawyer] Melvin Belli, and I know he’s better than [famous Hollywood trial lawyer] Jerry Geisler, because I’ve beaten Jerry Geisler.” Although Holt did not pursue the theater as a career, he brought it to the courtroom with him. “Each case was a drama” he said, and he dressed for the part. “I would dress to attract the attention of jurors ... I would start with a strong witness, structure it right, and work the jury up to a certain point in the evidence, then quit.”
One reporter described Holt as being “a man of rapier wit, who could tell devilishly funny stories. . . . a man of well-cultivated wisdom who could weave spellbinding tales of his earlier years.” (100 Years of Justice, Chronicle of the San Diego County Bar Assn, at 28). “Throughout his life, the old actor in Holt could be seen. Indeed, he quoted Shakespeare extensively in many of his courtroom battles.” (Id.)
Judge Franklin Orfield remembers, “John ate, slept, and lived his cases. He put his heart and soul into it. He was excellent in the courtroom, always prepared, and extremely dramatic in the things he did. Most people couldn’t get away with the things John did.”
Holt prided himself on attracting clients through skill and results. “I wanted [clients] to come to me because they thought I was a good lawyer.” “I never wanted to get business by joining clubs or shaking hands with politicians.”
Sadly, the criminal defense community lost Holt to divorce – not literally, but divorce practice. As divorce clients piled up, criminal cases dwindled. Ironically, many newer San Diego lawyers in the 70's knew John Holt only as one of the biggest divorce lawyers in town. They knew nothing of his stellar career in criminal defense. One Superior Court judge lamented: “We lost the greatest trial lawyer in the history of this county when Johnny Holt turned to his divorce specialty.”
Holt had a big house in the hills of La Jolla overlooking the ocean and drove a Rolls Royce. It was not enough that the Rolls was an exact replica of the one Queen Elizabeth rode in. To add to the drama he added flags to the front fender, which flapped as he passed by. He lived life the same way he practiced law. With passion.
Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr.
To most of those who knew him Judge Jones was affectionately and respectfully known as "Nap". Born in Louisiana, his family moved to San Diego when he was very young. He attended Logan and Chesterton elementary schools, Memorial Jr. High and San Diego High School. He spent most of his life in the neighborhood near Memorial.
After graduating from San Diego State University in 1962 with a B.A. in social work, he served in the United States Army. He was stationed for the most part at Fort Benning, Georgia where he served as a social work specialist at the rank of E5.Returning to San Diego State University for a Masters Degree in social work, he worked in foster home placement and Child Protective Services. Thereafter, he attended and graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law.
At SDSU he founded and served as the first President of the Black Student Council. History repeated itself at USD Law School, where he served as the first President of the school's chapter of the Black American Law Student Association.After law school he worked for California Rural Legal Assistance in Modesto, representing farm laborers and other low income clients. He returned to San Diego to work for Defenders Inc., providing defense for the indigent, before joining fellow Criminal Justice Roll of Honor honoree Tom Adler in private practice.
Appointed to San Diego Municipal Court in 1977 as the second African American Judge in San Diego County, he was the first person to receive the San Diego Trial Lawyer's award as Municipal Court Trial Judge of the Year in 1981.In 1982 he was elevated to the San Diego Superior Court, where he continued to serve with distinction including service as the Supervising Judge of the Juvenile Court Division. He characterized juvenile court work as "probably the most important assignment we have."
On September 19, 1994, he became the second African American to serve on the United States District Court in San Diego, taking senior status in 2008.His treasured friend and mentor was the late Earl Gilliam, the first African American Judge on the San Diego Municipal and Superior Courts, and the United States District Court, and one of the first group of honorees on the Criminal Justice Roll of Honor.
"Nap" was intensely grateful to his parents "who did not believe in the word can't." To the countless youth he mentored his message was, "What you want to be you can be.”
"I am a product of my community,” he would say, “I have had several people help me along the way...I believe it is my obligation to give back.""Nap" honored this obligation throughout his life!
Myron “Mike” Kaminar He aspired to the highest with his whole being, and those whose lives he touched know how well he succeeded. Taken from the prime of his life, a loving husband and devoted father, San Diego was enriched for the years it shared with this gentle, kindly man, this gifted lawyer, and cherished friend. (Id.)
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1915, Mike Kaminar died in 1973, aged 58. As said by a contemporary of his, John Sorbo, “He was one of the finest trial lawyers of his generation, and a leader at the Bar and in the community who won respect for his profession as well as for himself. [His] life was marked by struggle, achievement, and fulfillment. He grew to manhood during the Depression. For years he worked at night to finance the college and law school classes he attended during the day. By the time he was ready to practice, the war had begun and he enlisted in the Navy as a seaman.” (Dicta, March 1973).
“He served his country with great distinction. After completing midshipmen’s school he was assigned to command landing craft in ten of the Pacific Island invasions, including the bloody assaults on Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. He never spoke of his role in the war to his associates, who learned of it for the first time after his death.” (Id.)
Mike also served his community and his profession with great distinction. After graduating from Loyola Law School, Kaminar “began his career as a Deputy City Prosecutor and soon moved to the District Attorney’s Office, where his gifts as a trial lawyer were quickly recognized.” (Id.) He handled the most important, difficult and complex cases in the office with great success. His calm, poised manner, his unflappable presence, and his well prepared presentations made him one of the most effective prosecutors in the office.
When he entered private practice in 1950, his reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer attracted many of the major cases of that period until his retirement in 1970. He defended some of the most controversial and celebrated cases of that time, including the corruption trial of a National City Council woman and persons accused in the Bonelli liquor license bribery scandal. He discharged his responsibilities ably and with the highest professional standards. “He was a lawyer’s lawyer, a man to whom other professionals came for counsel. During his busy years of practice, he served the Bar as an officer and director, worked on many committees, and for two years, as assistant secretary of the State Bar, performed a key role in the Disciplinary function of the bar.” (Id.)
To family, friends and partners, he was a man for all seasons, selfless, compassionate, loving. He was not a religious man, concerned with creeds and the destiny of man. Experience taught him the simple creed he followed, eloquently stated by Alan Paton, the South African writer he admired.
I shall no longer ask myself if this or that is expedient but only if it is
right. I shall do this, not because I am noble or unselfish, but because
life slips away, and because I need for the rest of my journey a star
that will not play false to me, a compass that will not lie . . . I do this
not because I am courageous and honest but because it is the only
way to end the conflict of my deepest soul. I do it because I am no longer able to aspire to the highest with one part of myself, and to
deny it with another.
Hon. Judith Nelsen Keep
Judge Judith Keep was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1944. She was unable to convince her very traditional father that she should attend college in the East, so she came to California. Although she had no lawyers in her family and majored in literature, she became interested in the law in college when she had watched some trials (Dicta June 1978). She graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California and thereafter taught English for a brief time at The Bishop's School in La Jolla.
During law school at University of San Diego Law School, she volunteered at Legal Aid in San Diego and then traveled to Washington, D.C. with the Justice Department’s Honors Program. In her third year, she was on the Law Review Board. She graduated first in her class at USD Law School, and became one of its most honored alumnus. Because it was difficult for women to be hired, her law professors would give out her name as “J. Keep” just to get an interview. Some firms were shocked and at others she was asked about birth control or was propositioned (Dicta June 1978). She worked for Defenders, Inc. a non-profit criminal defense group, from 1971-1973. She was in private practice, principally as a criminal defense attorney, from 1973-1976. Earning one of the smallest federal paychecks in the history, she became an Assistant U.S. Attorney for four days before Governor Brown appointed her to the state bench in 1976.
She was appointed to the San Diego Municipal Court. In 1980 she was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Judge Keep was the first woman appointed to that court. She served as the Chief Judge of the district from 1991 to 1998. During her tenure on the federal bench Judge Keep was involved in numerous committees of both the 9th Circuit and the federal judiciary and remained active in community affairs.
Among her many accomplishments: she was selected by the Chief Justice to the elite Blue Ribbon Study Commission to plan and evaluate the future of the federal judiciary; she was elected by her peers to be the single representative of the Ninth Circuit on the U.S. Judicial Conference – the policy making body of the federal judiciary; and she was the youngest Chief Judge of the Southern District of California – presiding over our district for seven years with poise, charm, and bold leadership.
In an interview with Dicta in 1984, Judge Keep acknowledged that being a woman was “a dominating factor in receiving her state and federal appointments” at a time when most judges were male Caucasians, and she felt “a special obligation to be a positive role model to women who are entering the legal profession.” (Dicta Jan. 1984). “If a man is a bad judge, he’s a bad judge. But, if a woman is a bad judge, it reflects on other women and affects their chances. Interestingly, I feel more people are shocked by my age than by my sex when they come to my courtroom.” (Dicta June 1976).
At 32, she was one of the youngest appointments to the Municipal bench. She looked “forward to the day when being a woman on the bench won’t be noteworthy.” In 1984, “it still is.” Years later, in 1991, Judy Keep joined a unique trio of female Chiefs of San Diego trial courts (along with Judith McConnell, then Presiding Judge of the Superior Court and Patricia A.Y. Cowett, then Presiding Judge of the Municipal Court). Keep quipped the three judges would form a “troika.” (San Diego Transcript, Jan 24, 1991). All three women were friends who had formed the “Old Girls” club fifteen years earlier to provide support in the male-dominated legal profession in the 1970s (California Lawyer, March 1991 at 22).
She recalled with humor that one pro per party called her “Your Honoress” or perhaps, “Your Onerous.” (Dicta Jan. 1984; San Diego Transcript 10/22/90). In one change of plea hearing she advised the defendant a fine up to $2 million could be imposed, and the defendant interrupted to ask if he could make monthly payments of $50. Judge Keep said god should be as good as to allow him to live so long to pay it off. (100 Years of Justice, Chronicle of the San Diego County Bar Assn, at 82-83).
The San Diego County Bar Association named her Legal Professional of the Year in 1998 for her tireless work as Chief Judge when the District was burdened with the heaviest criminal felony case load in the country as the U.S. Attorney’s Office doubled in size. In addition to presiding over numerous complex drug cartel cases, her noteworthy criminal cases included a Customs inspectors who’s false corruption charges against senior officers aired on 60 Minutes; a hate crime against synagogues; a Medi-Cal racketeering scam; a nation-wide pharmaceutical fraud case; and the controversial tax evasion prosecution of a criminal defense attorney.
Judge Keep was an excellent criminal defense attorney and served with distinction on the state and federal courts. Although she is remembered for her competence, energy and involvement, her lasting legacy is probably best represented by her decency, wonderful personality, and enthusiasm for life. She died in September 2004.
James Don Keller A year after he left office, Don Keller died while vacationing in Spain He was 68. His memory is honored by a plaque in the San Diego Hall of Justice. An inscription on the plaque, taken from a eulogy written by U.S. District Judge William Enright, states: “His life represented the epitome of able, dedicated public service--he was a lawyer of complete integrity and, above all, a good, thoroughly decent, gentle man.”
James Don Keller was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 2, 1904. His father, owner of an airplane company, died when Don was 6 years old. After the death of his father, Don Keller and his mother moved to California. He attended San Diego High School and, at the age of 16, went to work at a downtown bank. “They hired me as a baseball player on the bank team,” he stated later. He did manage some clerical work at the bank. He later would work at banks in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
While attending San Diego High School, Don joined a fraternity. Through the fraternity he soon met attorney and later Superior Court Judge Gordon Thompson, Sr. It was this association that impressed Don to consider the legal profession. After high school, Don attended San Diego State University. While at college, he met Rita Hamann and they were married in 1929.
Over the next few years Don worked and studied law. He later recalled that he “worked days and went to school nights; worked nights and went to school days.” His persistence paid off and at the age of 35 he completed his studies and was admitted to practice.
He initially made good use of his banking experience by working as an attorney for the legal and trust department of a bank. He then went into private practice in San Diego. He moved on to serve as deputy city attorney and as assistant city prosecutor before returning to private practice. His path to become District Attorney started when he supported another attorney’s decision to run. When that attorney decided he would not run, Don decided he would. “To make it a contest I filed,” he recounted later. Future congressman Bob Wilson ran his campaign and Don defeated the sitting District Attorney Thomas Whelan in 1946. He held the position as District Attorney for the County of San Diego until 1971.
Judge William Enright, who had served as a Deputy District Attorney in the 1950s, wrote as a tribute: “all those who worked for or with Don Keller during his years as District Attorney of San Diego County can attest the great debt owed and the stature of the man. Scores of attorneys practicing in this county have passed through his office; their lives have been guided and their careers have been shaped by the attributes and standards of this man. It was known to us then – and most poignantly now – that here indeed was a man who would have an influence long beyond his time.”
Don quickly made his influence felt as District Attorney. He ordered a raid on a National City cocktail lounge. His undercover people got themselves invited to the manager’s office and then through a secret door to the upstairs casino. It was there that patrons were relieved of their cash by use of marked cards, loaded dice, and rigged roulette tables. The illegal casino was shut down and the term “Keller Raids” was started.
During his years in office, Don gained the reputation as a champion of law and order. He was appointed by Governor Earl Warren to the California Crime Commission. He was a proponent of good government and an efficient judicial system. His office mounted drives against bookmaking and gambling, narcotics traffic and sales, consumer fraud, pornography and welfare abuses. He was one of the first to propose cooperation between the US and Mexico to combat narcotics trafficking. He encouraged federal, state, and local agencies to work together to fight consumer fraud. He urged working with the press to balance the public’s need to be informed with the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Don made a career of fighting public corruption. During the 1950s, he convicted numerous public officials and others of bribery and other criminal charges relating to a state liquor license probe. One of the defendants was William G. Bonelli, a member of the State Board of Equalization. Mr. Bonelli was indicted and then fled to Mexico. Another investigation involved bribes being paid to employees of the assessor’s office. Bribes were paid in exchange for lower assessed property valuations. Several convictions were obtained as a result of this investigation.
Kenyon C. Keller
Ken Keller graduated from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall. After graduation, and during his first year after admission, Ken was given a death penalty appeal, People v. Letourneau (1949) 34 Cal.2d 478, which was affirmed the same year. In those days, affirmances were common, habeas filings unusual, and speedy executions expected.
In his first years of practice, Ken also worked with legendary San Francisco defense attorney, George T. Davis. He was present when Davis interviewed a client while under the influence of a so-called "truth serum" in one of the first applications of the drug to trial testimony.
Ken moved to San Diego in 1952 and started a private practice for a short time. Then he joined the District Attorney's office where he acquired a remarkable record as a prosecutor. One of the highlights was his success in trying a murder case based entirely on circumstantial evidence. The murderer rode a bus with the victim, stalked her when she got off in a poorly-lighted area, and did her in. No one witnessed it.
From the District Attorney's office, Kenyon joined the law firm of Procopio, Price, Cory and Schwartz. He was outgoing, gregarious, and well-liked by all which explains why he became Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of San Diego. As Chairman, he had the wonderful opportunity to escort then candidate John F. Kennedy on his presidential campaign visit to San Diego.
In the early 1960's Ken suffered from the pressures of his law practice and politics and had a mental breakdown. After a full recovery, he worked for Fed Mart for a time and then joined Appellate Defenders, Inc. in San Diego in 1972. He described the hardest part of working at ADI, at least in the early years when the office was at the USD campus, as staying awake after lunch. The sun would come in large windows behind Kenyon's back and between the warmth of the sun and the hour of the day, he would have a tendency to nod off. Despite this challenge, he won important victories for his clients either as lead counsel or together with panel attorneys. E.g., People v. Tucciarone (1982)137 Cal. App. 3d 701 (reversing conviction of attempted murder for failure to give manslaughter instruction); People v. Lomboy (1981) 116 Cal. App. 3d 67 (reversed because defendant never given full advisement of the consequences directly flowing from her decision to proceed with plea of not guilty by reason of insanity); People v. Herrera (1980) 104 Cal. App. 3d 167 (conviction reversed due to trial court's multiple errors); People v. Nelson (1976) 63 Cal. App. 3d 11 (reversed for improper impeachment of the defendant with priors); People v. Gallegos (1974) 39 Cal. App. 3d 512 (reversed for instructional error). Ken passed away in 1988.
Peter C. Lehman He was also active in the San Diego County Bar Association, where he served as chair of the Criminal Law Subcommittee of the Legislative Committee and as a member of the Youth and Law, and Criminal Justice Committees. For several years, he taught Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.
Peter Lehman was born in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1927. He escaped the Nazis with his parents by coming at age 12 to the United States following a brief stay in England. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1949, and joined the United States Army, serving in West Germany and later in Korea. As a Captain in Intelligence, he monitored Soviet military activity from his station post behind the Iron Curtain. It was in Germany he met his future wife, Inge. Lehman came to San Diego to work in Convair engineering.
In 1960 he served as a juror in a murder case prosecuted by Robert Stahl (later a Superior Court Judge). He “became fascinated with the business of a criminal trial,” which inspired him to attend law school (Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 15, 1989.) He studied by taking night classes at the University of San Diego Law School. He graduated in 1963, and in 1964, joined the District Attorney’s Office. He served as supervisor of the Municipal Court division attorneys until 1975, when he was promoted to Chief of the Appellate Division. He held that position at the time of his death at the age of 61, though he had twice turned down the honor of a judicial appointment.
Pete supervised and personally prosecuted the most complex and controversial cases the District Attorney’s office handled. He was active in the District Attorney’s Association and served on several of its committees. He also taught at the University of San Diego. His abilities and professional standards were well respected by his adversaries and by the judges hearing and deciding such matters. His achievements and high professional standards were recognized by the leaders of the Bench and the Bar. As described by his associates, “He was a complete professional and a dedicated career prosecutor. He was well liked by everyone in the office. He was warm, friendly and helpful. We will all miss him.” (Obituary). His colleagues, and many journalists, relied on Lehman to translate complex legal decisions into plain English.
At his poignant and deeply moving memorial service, held at the University of San Diego, it was said “the appellate function of the District Attorney office is where the law is made and Peter Lehman’s imprint on his profession was profound.”
Hon. William T. Low Even after he retired, Judge Low continued to be in demand as an assigned judge. He traveled throughout the state hearing the most difficult criminal cases, including death penalty cases. He strongly believed that both side of a case must be competent and that indigent defendants be well-represented. “As the first chairperson of the county’s Office of Defenders Services board, Judge Low has always been in support of the indigent criminal defense work and tried to ensure that competent counsel was available for indigent defendants.” (Id. quoting Alex Landon).
Judge William T. Low, a native of Mason City, Iowa, moved with his family to Long Beach, California in 1933. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1943 and promptly joined the Navy where he became a commissioned officer. During World War II, Judge Low served in combat in the Pacific as a commander of an LST amphibious ship.
After the war, Judge Low returned to California where he earned his law degree at Hastings College of Law in 1949. In 1950 he joined the San Diego County District Attorney's Office where he rose to the position of Chief Deputy District Attorney and then Assistant District Attorney. During his tenure in the District Attorney's Office, Judge Low tried numerous, high profile criminal cases. He earned a reputation as a fair and effective prosecutor.
One of his most memorable prosecutions was securing four first-degree murder convictions for the robbery and killing of purported Mafioso Tony Mirabile. The prior year, Low successfully prosecuted his only death penalty case against Harvey Glatman, who was dubbed the “Lonely Hearts Killer” for his rape and murder of several women in Southern California in the late 1950s. Glatman met women through a dating club and convinced them to be bound and gagged so he could take photographs for his mystery stories; he would then strangle the women with their corded rope. (People v. Glatman, 52 Cal.2d 283 (1959)). “I investigated the case myself, I talked to the witnesses and I tried to bring in the best case I could, feeling that if I tried the case to the best of my ability, I’ll be satisfied.” (SDUT 10/27/85).
Although Judge Low was a registered Republican, he was appointed to the Municipal Court by Governor Pat Brown in 1964. He was appointed to the Superior Court in 1968 by Governor Ronald Reagan.
In his 21 years on the bench, Judge Low earned a reputation for fairness. He exhibited an extensive knowledge of criminal law, and was known for his superb judicial temperament. He had a “wonderful rapport with the lawyers. I’ve found that if you conduct your court with a sense of fairness, you’ll get that kind of response from the lawyers.” (Id.)
Low presided over many highly publicized cases such as Daniel Altstadt (an honors Patrick Henry High School student, who killed three members of his family with his Boy Scout hatchet, left his younger brother paralyzed, and then committed suicide in prison); the Tubach murder trial (in which the wife, two daughters, and a ski instructor were charged with killing a prominent travel executive); the Edward Sanchez rape case (committed shortly after his release from a 17 year sentence); the Carol Hargis case (where two women conspired to kill a Marine Corp sergeant); and the Charles Carney case (the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Judge Low’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of a warrantless search of a motor home).
One colleague on the bench stated “You would never want to play poker with him. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking. He had the icy neutrality of a good judge.” (SDUT 2/8/04 quoting Judge William Kennedy). Superior Court Judge Tom Whelan, who had been the prosecutor in the emotionally-charged Altstadt case stated: “Both sides knew going in that he would be well prepared, and both sides walked out feeling they had a fair hearing.” (Id.)
“He’s the most experienced, knowledgeable and respected judge in the area of criminal law.” (SDUT 10/27/85, quoting DA Edwin Miller, Jr. upon Low’s retirement). “His decisions were considered and made after a great deal of thought and soul-searching.” (Id. quoting DA Richard Neely) One colleague admired him as “the premier criminal judge” and noted that younger judges had frequently consulted Low for advice and “he’s always right.” (Id. quoting Judge Donald Smith).
Hon. William P. Mahedy
William P. Mahedy was born in 1906. Judge Mahedy was a native of Oakland. He knew the value of hard work in his young life, helping his father with bricklaying. He graduated from Loyola High School in 1924. He then went to Loyola University and Loyola Law School, receiving the Jesuit training he would carry with him the rest of his life. He moved to San Diego in 1930 and joined the District Attorney's Office in 1934 where he served for 6 years under District Attorney Tom Whelan. He got married in 1935 and started raising a family.
In 1940, when Mahedy was Deputy District Attorney, he participated in then-California Attorney General Earl Warren’s statewide conferences to tighten law enforcement activities on gambling and bookmaking. (LA Times, 3/22/40).
When World War II came, Judge Mahedy joined the Navy where he rose to the rank of Commander and eventually Captain in the Naval Reserve. While in the Reserve he was placed in charge of naval intelligence dealing with enemy sabotage. He loved the Navy serving for over 26 years.
In the mid-1950's, Mahedy represented Bernard Calhoun, head of the Southern California Spirits Foundation, in connection with the campaign contribution scandal of William Bonelli, a member of the State Board of Equalization.
He was a man of faith, who devoted his whole life to his parish and diocese. In 1952 he was appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory by Pope Pius XII.
In 1953 he founded a firm along with William J. Schall located in the penthouse of the San Diego Trust and Savings Building. He frequently took cases for people who could not afford to pay. He was known as a poised, passionate, and eloquent speaker.
In 1957 he was appointed to the Superior Court bench by Governor Goodwin Knight. He faithfully served on the bench for over 16 years until his retirement in 1974. During that time he presided over countless criminal trials, including many high profile, death penalty, and other serious cases. As both advocate and judge, he had many cases end up as published appellate cases.
He presided over several death penalty cases, including as the trier of fact over the re-trial of Raymond Cartier, a sailor who mutilated his wife, and the 18-year-old Raymond Goedecke, who killed his family (People v. Cartier, 54 Cal.2d 300 (1960); People v. Goedecke, 65 Cal.2d 850 (1967) (reducing to second degree)). He also presided over criminal trials of Black Panthers during the 1960s (LA Times, 8/21/64 & 5/22/70). In 1960, Judge Mahedy granted the change of venue motion in the re-trial of Joseph Morse, who was accused of killing another prisoner, because another judge had criticized the jury who failed to sustain the death sentence on the underlying murder of his wife and invalid sister (LA Times 9/23/64).
Judge Mahedy said his most unusual case was the 1962 trial of a woman who tried to hire an undercover officer to kill her husband. She told the officer she did not want her husband to suffer because he was a really nice guy. Judge Mahedy found her guilty in a non-jury trial but sentenced her to probation based on the plea for mercy by her husband. He told the couple they deserved each other. The judge received Christmas cards from them for years thereafter.
He frequently found himself in the headlines because of his rulings and his straightforward manner. He was colorful and frank. He threatened some welfare workers with contempt and jail for refusing to tell a woman where her six children were being kept in foster homes. He had several public disagreements with the District Attorney. On one such encounter the D.A. caused members of the Grand Jury to show up in Judge Mahedy’s department; without hesitation the Judge had his bailiff escort the group out of his department. He was not afraid of confrontation.
In October 1959, District Attorney Don Keller “virtually unseated” Judge Mahedy from all criminal trials by making use of the new law permitting automatic disqualification of a judge. Judge Mahedy had previously advised a jury to acquit the defendants in a narcotics case and “blasted the deputy district attorney in the case and the district attorney’s office generally for ‘maneuvering’ to move the trial to another court whose rulings would be more favorable to the prosecution.” The Superior Court judges passed a unanimous vote of confidence in Judge Mahedy. He responded that he “may be blunt and outspoken but the outcome of a case is no different.” He pointed to his two-year record of 12 acquittals and 34 convictions in his court (LA Times, 10/16/59 & 10/23/59).
Longtime friend and former law partner William J. Shall said Judge Mahedy “felt very keenly about his principles; he was outspoken and never pulled his punches in any respect.” He would tell his son that, “My job is to take justice with me into the court, otherwise the law is meaningless.” He passed away on November 25, 1984 having spent his final days surrounded by his family.
Frank Mangan was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on November 3, 1942. He joined the Marist Brothers after high school, but decided the monastic life was not for him. He went back to college and graduated from Catholic University with a degree in mechanical engineering. Following graduation, he won employment as an engineer for General Electric in the Nuclear Power Division. He worked in that capacity for the next six years.
During his time at GE, he decided to become a lawyer and enrolled at Santa Clara University Law School where he graduated summa cum laude in 1973. During law school, he clerked for California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk who wrote and spoke very favorably of his work and future as a lawyer.
In 1973, Frank went to work for San Diego's Federal Defender as a trial attorney handling all sorts of cases, misdemeanors, felonies, trials and appeals. He left Federal Defenders in 1976 to manage the San Jose branch office of the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of California. Later, Frank opened his own criminal defense practice in San Jose in 1978, where he defended many high profile clients in federal and state courts including famous phone hacker, Captain Crunch, tax attorney, Harry Margolis, and Hell's Angels' Sonny Barger in a very long RICO trial in which Barger was the only one acquitted.
Frank returned to Federal Defenders in San Diego in 1995 as a Senior Trial Attorney. Frank led the office's new attorney training committee teaching young attorneys how to become superior litigators by imparting his profound knowledge of federal criminal law and wisdom about handling cases. He ensured that each generation of Federal Defender attorneys under his tutelage provided quality representation to their clients. That is a legacy that will live for generations.
Frank served as Chief Trial Attorney from 2002-2005 and was the Acting Executive Director from January to May 2005. Later he assumed the position of Senior Litigator/Special Assistant to the Executive Director. He remained actively involved in supervising, training and mentoring Federal Defender younger trial attorneys until the very end. He died in December 2012. His memory and legacy lives on.
Edwin L. Miller, Jr.
Ed Miller was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California by President Johnson in 1966. He left that office after the election of President Nixon and entered private practice. In 1970 Ed was elected as the District Attorney for San Diego County, an office he held for 24 years.
During his tenure as District Attorney, Ed professionalized the work of prosecutors and became a leader in improving the role of the prosecutor at both the state and national level. Ed served as the president of both the California and National District Attorneys Associations. He served many years as a regent of the National College of District Attorneys and helped create a national research and training center to improve the prosecution function throughout the country. President Ronald Reagan appointed Ed to a national commission on organized crime, in recognition of his leadership at both the state and national levels.
During Ed Miller's tenure, the San Diego District Attorney's office focused more attention on career criminals, fraud and white collar crime, as well as cases involving public corruption. The office also took a leadership position in assisting victims of crime with its victim/witness unit.
Hon. William Mudd
Bill Mudd was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was an FBI agent and his mother was a homemaker. He graduated from Cal Western College and then from Hastings Law School in 1969. He then joined the Army Reserve. While serving at Fort Ord, he was injured in an accident and spent weeks recovering in the hospital. Thereafter, he was transferred to a Judge Advocate General (JAG) unit. From these experiences in the service, Judge Mudd would later devote a great deal of time assisting disabled veterans.
He was admitted to the California Bar in 1970. After one year in the Office of the City Attorney, he practiced as a criminal defense lawyer in San Diego for about 12 years, and then was appointed to the judicial office of Commissioner. He then became a Municipal Court judge, and was elevated to the Superior Court in 1988.Judge Mudd was one of the hardest working judges on the bench. By the time he retired from the Superior Court, Judge Mudd had presided over 600 to 700 jury trials, including many serious felony cases. In one year alone, he presided over 14 murder trials. He handled thousands of felony cases in the high volume felony departments of the Superior Court. In 2002, he presided over the lengthy and complex trial of David Westerfield, who was accused and convicted of the kidnap and capital murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. He allowed full media coverage of this emotional, widely followed trial.
One of his greatest contributions to criminal justice was the case of People v. Romero, a case that would make a monumental change in California law. A small time thief and drug addict, Jesus Romero, pled guilty to possession of .13 grams of cocaine base. Romero’s prior convictions did not involve violence, but did include a residential burglary and an attempted residential burglary, both of which qualified as strike priors under the three strike law which had been recently enacted by legislation and by initiative. The minimum sentence for a defendant with two strike priors was a mandatory 25 years-to-life. Over the objection of the District Attorney, Judge Mudd struck the two strike priors in the interest of justice and sentenced Romero to six years in state prison. The DA appealed. In People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, a unanimous California Supreme Court affirmed Judge Mudd’s decision, ruling that the trial court has the authority to dismiss strike priors in the interest of justice, subject to appellate review for abuse of discretion.When he struck Romero’s strike priors, Judge Mudd was sailing in uncharted waters and risked criticism that he was not being tough on crime. His courageous decision in the Romero case was vindicated both by the decision of the California Supreme Court, as well as by history. The power of the trial court to dismiss strike priors (as well as other charges and allegations), has assisted judges in imposing fair sentences based on a careful consideration of all factors in a case.
Judge Mudd handled thousands of criminal cases in his career on the bench. He approached every case the same way he handled Romero. His goal was to do the right thing based on all of the facts and to judge each defendant as an individual. He had a great legal mind, a good human touch, and great instincts.
Hon. Leland C. Nielsen
Lee Nielsen was born June 14, 1919, on a wheat farm in Vesper, Kansas. He grew up on the farm in a Danish community. The farm had been in the family for 114 years. He attended a tiny grammar school with only a handful of students.
Early on, he decided to make his living with his head instead of his back. He was educated at Washburn College, graduating in 1941, and then went on to his law degree at the University of Southern California Law School (1946). He went into private practice in Los Angeles, 1946-1947, became a Deputy City Attorney there from 1947-1951. He began his private practice in San Diego from 1951-1968 and was a highly regarded lawyer. He had cases against the best of the day such as the “King of Torts,” Melvin Belli and secured two wins, one hung jury, and two losses in legal battles with Belli. (SDUT 9/25/99).
He was appointed to the Superior Court for San Diego County in 1968 and served until 1971 when he became a federal district court judge. While on the superior court, with Judge Howard Turrentine, Nielsen inaugurated the criminal readiness and settlement department which proved so essential to the disposition of cases.
As a federal judge (1971-1999), he became “the fifth judge in the busiest district in the nation just after Congress approved three additional positions.” His colleagues on the bench often turned to Judge Nielsen as a settlement judge in criminal cases. Judge Nielsen presided over many notable criminal and civil matters including the dissolution of the Westgate financial empire of C. Arnold Smith, one of the largest financial scandals in San Diego history.
In 1983, Nielsen conducted a jury trial of a wife who had killed her Marine husband in a case that established the battered wife syndrome defense in federal court. Though he lacked authority to grant probation on the second-degree murder conviction, Nielsen paroled the mother of four after she had served ten months of her three-year sentence (UPI 11/9/83). In 1985, he found a criminal defense attorney not guilty in a bench trial on charges of tampering with grand jury witnesses in a case that captured the attention of the national defense bar (SDUT 3/30/85; National Law Jrl 4/22/85).
He was a workhorse of the bench and always willing to help out others on the bench by taking cases when they were involved in long trials. He also found time to serve for twenty years on the important Advisory Committee Rules on Criminal Procedure, the last five as Chair.
But his valiant service in World War II was perhaps the greatest service in a long career of devoted work for his country. He was in the service prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor joining up in October 1941. Of the 55 in his air class, 38 died in the war. His first duty was in the Aleutian Islands in the summer of 1942. His unit sank two destroyers off Kiska, but two of the six planes in his unit were shot down and his navigator was killed. His parents were notified he was missing in action. Then he went to England (January 1944). From there, he took part in 30 combat missions over occupied Europe. As a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, Major Captain Nielsen served as a staff officer in the 97th Bomb Wing for ten months flying A-20s, B-25s and B-26s. He became Operations Officer of the 671st Bomb Squadron on December 20th, 1944.Judge Nielsen was a compassionate man with a great sense of humor and perspective. He died September 23, 1999, still a member of the federal bench.
During those thirty harrowing missions over Europe, the danger was ever present and many crews did not return to home base. On one mission, a bombing and strafing mission on February 22, 1945, his cockpit was struck by flak shattering the glass along side his head, severely cutting his face and knocking him unconscious. As his plane went into a dive, he regained consciousness. Bleeding and with his goggles shattered, he proceeded to the target and bombed it with good results. For this heroism, Captain Nielsen received the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor in combat awards. The award was presented April 6, 1945, in Luxembourg, by Five Star General Arnold, the supreme commander of the Army Air Forces. He was also promoted to Major and also won the Air Medal with 14 clusters.
Captain Arthur J. O’Keefe
Captain Arthur O’Keefe served in the United States Army from 1915 to 1932. He was a Captain in the artillery who saw extensive combat service during World War I. He retained the title through all of his legal career. He served in France, where he was wounded several times. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, the Coix de Guerre with Palm, and the Legion of Honor. In July 1918, “O’Keefe was commanding a company of 200 men near Sissons, France when enemy fire reduced his company to 30.” The Distinguished Service citation read: “Captain O’Keefe personally led a group of automatic riflemen in an attack against a number of enemy who were attempting to cut off the assaulting wave. By his skillful leadership and gallant conduct, he succeeded in defeating the enemy party.” (San Diego Union, January 21, 1979).
Upon his graduation from USC Law School, O’Keefe was admitted to the Bar with a class of 55 new admittees in a ceremony in June 1937, presided over by Acting Chief Justice Emmett Seawell (LA Times 6/5/37 & State Bar records).
After a tour as a City Prosecutor under the auspices of the offices City Attorney, he was retained as an assistant by James Don Keller after his election to District Attorney in 1946. From that time forward, he cast his firm imprint on that office. He interviewed and hired all of the young Deputy District Attorneys, assigned cases for trial, and took the responsibility for the well-being of the office itself. He continued this service for sixteen years. Rather than hiring and retaining experienced criminal law practitioners as District Attorney Offices’ traditionally did, O’Keefe hired directly out of law schools. He traded youth and vigorous enthusiasm for experience and substantive knowledge of the law, criminal procedure, and evidence. He hired from the same pool as other governmental agencies and his hiring practices produced some of the most outstanding trial lawyers of San Diego. He focused on their willingness to compete rather than scholarly honors or class standing. It was an unusual philosophy but it was unmistakably his – and his influence and impact on the profession is permanent and powerful.
A contemporary of his said on the occasion of O’Keefe’s retirement, “[t]he Captain was quite a man to work under: if you booted one in the courts, he’d stand right beside you to take any adverse comment in public – and then do his own criticizing in strict private. I never went to him with a question that I didn’t come away with an answer – perhaps not the one I wanted, but an answer. We always knew exactly where we stood. And that situation in a public office is a consummation devotedly to be desired.” (Dicta, November 1962, p.10).
“On the evening of October 18th , a group of deputies who have served in the office with Captain O’Keefe joined with Don Keller to express our respect and admiration for him. There were approximately 60 in the group, and I know of at least a dozen others who missed it. The gathering represented a rather sizable percentage of the attorneys actively engaged in trial practice in the County. The speeches were notable for absence, and the only formality was the presentation to the Captain of a very beautiful little gun. It’s a 380 Browning in the Renaissance design, much too pretty to be shot. Claude Brown made the arrangements, Mike Kaminar made the presentation, Don Meloche made some remarks for the present staff of deputies, Don Keller expressed his regard and appreciation of the Captain’s services over the years, and Captain O’Keefe responded in his usual vein: Short, direct, uncompromisingly to the point and no nonsense. His concluding remark was also typical: He swore he’d never come back to the office, once he left it, as a defense counsel for some guilty criminal! It was a delightful event.” (Id.)
He was a remarkable man in every respect, whose influence still resonates to this very day.
John F. O'Laughlin
John O'Laughlin was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Science degree, and received his LLB in 1950 from Harvard University School of Law. He came to San Diego and joined the District Attorney's Office in 1952, serving until 1956. In addition, he assisted in founding the City of Imperial Beach and served at its first City Attorney until his death.He died at a young age from a heart attack and is survived by his wife, Josefina, and daughter, Pamela. John gave generously of his time to professional endeavors, including serving as a member of the State Bar Committee on Law and Procedure.
John was a particularly high-profile prosecutor and defense attorney in the 1950s and 1960s when the San Diego legal community was relatively small – the number of lawyers was less than a thousand. While he was a Deputy D.A., a case which garnered particular notoriety was his prosecution of the head of the butcher's union and others for a charge of conspiracy to assault a union official when the labor leaders took “the law into their own hands.” (LA Times, 8/9 & 8/10/56).
After leaving the District Attorney's Office he entered private practice with Bart Sheela, who was also a former prosecutor. A defense case which received national and international attention was John's successful defense of the owners of the Nexus bookstore in La Jolla. The owners were charged with selling copies of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, which the prosecution claimed was obscene. Rather than relying on a technical defense, John boldly chose to convince the jury the book was not obscene and had literary merit, which effort was successful. The trial judge was Edward Schwartz, who at the time served on the Municipal Court but was later appointed to the federal District Court (the current courthouse is named after him). Judge Schwartz said it was one of the most interesting cases over which he'd presided.
O’Laughlin, along with Bart Sheela and John Sorbo, succeeded in obtaining a hung jury and a subsequent acquittal for the two female defendants in the Ruth Latham kidnaping. Latham claimed to have been kidnaped from her Ocean Beach home, carried in the trunk of a car to Imperial County where she was robbed, stripped, bound, and buried under rocks. Latham escaped her shallow desert grave and stumbled to the highway. The defense maintained that Latham concocted the fantastic story to punish the defendants for a business relationship turned sour, and that they too had been victims of a similar kidnaping that same day (LA Times 9/18/1956, 10/2/56, 12/15/56, 12/21/56, 1/19/57, 3/25/57, 6/8/57).
The effective cross-examination of George Latham – which exposed his prior conviction for fatally shooting a farm laborer on a freight train and disposing of his body in a remote location in North Dakota -- was critical to the successful outcome.
John was highly regarded by his peers, not only when he was in the District Attorney's Office but also when he joined the defense bar. He was particularly well known for his innovative trial themes and effective closing arguments. Other lawyers frequently sought him out for his input on cases they were trying.
James Neil Pendleton Tragically, his life was cut far too short. He died at the age of 40 from stomach cancer. He was a wonderful father to four daughters, Lisa, Lauri, Jennifer and Julie. Shortly after his death, the Criminal Defense Lawyers Club, of which he was a member, named its regularly updated expert witness manual in his name.
Jim was born April 21, 1939 and attended Haverford College. He graduated in 1961. He received his law degree from Hastings College of Law in California in 1967 and started as a staff attorney at Defenders Incorporated of San Diego in July of 1968. That private law firm was dedicated to defending the poor in criminal cases and was the forerunner to the present Public Defenders office in San Diego. Pendleton was assigned to work in the San Diego and El Cajon criminal courthouses as well as in the juvenile and mental health divisions. There he formed a reputation as a superb advocate with high ethical principles. Other lawyers admired his ability to deliver superb opening statements and closing arguments -- without notes. This skill, coupled with an excellent memory for details, enabled him to develop an excellent rapport with the jury. He could mesmerize a jury. He was very persuasive, a talent enhanced perhaps by movie star good looks.
After developing a solid reputation in three short years, he joined in forming the partnership of Douglas, Pendleton, and Applbaum in 1970. The private firm dedicated itself primarily to criminal defense trial law. He practiced there until January of 1976 when he became a solo practitioner. A generous and caring man, he was known to represent clients without collecting a fee. He was very loyal to his clients – often devoting many hours to a case beyond those required for a technical representation.
Stephen Joseph Perrello, Jr. Although he eventually lost his valiant battle against brain cancer, his friends were inspired by his unselfish demeanor during his long illness. (Id.)
Steve Perrello was born in Buffalo, New York on August 25, 1946. He earned his bachelor’s degree in French from Cornell University, his law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law, and a Ph.D in Criminal Justice at Rutgers University. For over twenty years, he specialized in criminal appellate and habeas corpus work as a solo practitioner because he felt that “the test of a society was how it dealt with those who transgressed.” (SDUT 3/24/06). He also worked at Appellate Defenders.
Two of his successful suits involved recognizing the civil rights of those on parole and invalidating a county sales tax imposed to build more jails. He told a colleague, “If we keep building ‘em, they’ll keep filling ‘em.” (Id.) In 1980, he co-chaired the San Diego County Bar Association’s Jail Facilities Committee. He frequently represented mentally disabled offenders and struggled to have them appropriately housed in the limited supply of hospital beds or residential treatment facilities rather than jails (SDUT 7/13/87).
He obtained a new trial for Chester Holliday by showing he received ineffective assistance when his trial counsel failed to investigate the case and failed to call witnesses to support the defense that his wife was alive when he left for work. Holliday was acquitted on retrial (with new counsel), and subsequently secured a million-dollar malpractice award (SDUT 8/10/87). Perrello accepted many appointments from the Court of Appeal, and often obtained relief for his defendants, including juveniles.
In the years prior to his death on March 14, 2006, Perrello devoted more time to scholarly research and teaching at Alliant University and enjoyed deep philosophical discussions. His obituary described him as “a loyal, caring, and loving friend. His ringing laugh and zest for life brightened every occasion.” (SDUT 3/24/06).
Warren P. Reese
Reese died April 29, 1995 when a car struck him as he inspected his car on the shoulder of Interstate 5 near his home in Del Mar. In his over 25 years as an Assistant United States Attorney, he prosecuted offenders ranging from bank robbers, narcotics smugglers and kingpins, and white collar criminals. He had been serving as the coordinator of the Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area at the time of his death.
Reese was born in Los Angeles on June 8, 1929. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UCLA, and his law degree from Loyola University. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Reese returned to Los Angeles in 1965 to serve in the United States Attorney’s Office under John van de Kamp and Manuel Real (later District Judge). He moved to San Diego to practice as a criminal defense attorney at Federal Defenders. In 1969, Reese began as an Assistant United States Attorney in San Diego, where he served as Harry Steward’s Chief Assistant.
Reese was assigned to prosecute C. Arnholt Smith in the lengthy bank fraud proceedings concerning the misapplication of $27.5 million from the collapsed U.S. National Bank of San Diego. Reese described Smith at the change of plea hearing as “an octopus with 100 tentacles, each sucking up money.” (LA Times 6/13/1975).
Reese was one of three prosecutors in the government’s espionage case against Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo for allegedly stealing and releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times to protest the Vietnam War (LA Times 8/25/71, 4/7/73 & 4/27/73).
Reese dedicated many years to prosecuting crimes surrounding the 1985 torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Administrative Special Agent Enrique S. Camarena by members of the sophisticated drug cartel in Mexico, including drug lords, upper echelon associates, and dozens of distributors and other cohorts (LA Times, 5/29/86, SDUT 6/19/86, 11.22.86, 3/5/87, 6/23/87, 12/5/87, 7/16/88).
On his tragic death, U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin stated that “Warren’s contributions to this office have been enormous. He was a gifted lawyer and a wonderful person.” Reese maintained an active lifestyle outside of work, including rock climbing, playing classical and improvisational jazz on the piano, and woodworking. He was an avid surfer and built wood surfboards for himself and his son Peter (SDUT 5/3/95).
Hon. John Skylstead Rhoades In all his cases he devoted himself to the knowledge, demeanor, and fairness he expected from Judges when he was a lawyer and that he knew those appearing before him were entitled. His success as a learned and respected jurist was marked by comments he was extremely bright, very gifted, very well read, fair and even tempered, always prepared on the case, and unafraid to make the tough decisions judges often have to make. Judge John S. Rhoades passed away on September 3, 2007.
John Rhoades was born March 18, 1925 in Harve, Montana. His family emigrated from Norway in the 1880’s. His family moved to Southern California and he later enrolled at Stanford University for his undergraduate studies. He cut his studies short during World War II and became a Naval Aviator in 1943 serving in the Pacific. He left active duty in 1946 but remained in the Naval Reserves until 1966. In 1946 he returned to his studies at Stanford, where he successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1948. Judge Rhoades went directly to law school at University of California’s Hastings College of Law where he was awarded a Juris Doctorate in 1951.
After passing the bar exam, he joined the San Diego City Attorney’s office for five years. In 1957, he entered private practice where he remained for 28 years until being appointed to the federal bench of the United States District Court in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. In early 1964, John approached two other colleagues in the San Diego bar with the idea of forming a new law firm. John chose his new partners because they shared the same high ethical standards and passion for practicing law, traits which marked John Rhoades’ entire career. The firm they founded in 1964, Holt, Macomber & Rhoades was a testament to their adherence to their founding standards. This is evidenced by the subsequent appointments of Macomber to the San Diego Superior Court, Miller becoming the District Attorney for the County of San Diego and John to the Federal Bench.
John Holt said he hired Rhoades away from the City Attorney job for his civil litigation practice. “John S. Rhoades gave the law firm its character. He was its Renaissance Man who believed in the law as an instrument for justice and good, and in the practice of law as a noble profession. . . . He emphasized that lawyers are to be true advocates.” Though the law firm practiced civil law, Rhoades handled a variety of immigration matters (100 Years of Justice, Chronicle of the San Diego County Bar Assn, at 156).
He was one of the lead attorneys in the litigation stemming from the failure of C. Arnholt Smith’s United States National Bank in 1973. It was the largest bank failure in U.S. history up to that date. During his time in private practice, Judge Rhoades was highly respected as a skilled trial lawyer, universally well-liked by colleagues and adversaries, and often cited as an ethical standard to model.
John’s standards as a lawyer were also his standards on the bench and in life. His dedication to knowledge and people was widely admired. His friends and colleagues seldom saw him when he was not reading something new, be it in a book, magazine or newspaper. John, and his wife of over 50 years, Carmel, opened their house to US servicemen and women for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. They were annual supporters of the Tijuana orphanage, Casa de Cuña. They brought toys each Christmas and hosted orphaned children from the orphanage at their home one day each summer for cookouts and boat rides.
On the Federal bench, Judge Rhoades was a consummate hard worker. Even after taking senior status, he worked full-time up to his leave for heart surgery in June of 2007. He intended to return to a full case load. During his 22 years on the Federal Bench, Judge Rhoades relished in the learning each new case required. He was a vocal critic of the rigidity of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Months after their passage, in February 1988, he joined Judge Rudi M. Brewster as the first federal judges to hold the Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutional on separation of powers grounds (SDUT 12/18/90).
The San Diego Union Tribute credited Rhoades with having successfully “championed, cajoled, fumed and fussed through years of bureaucratic shuffles to save” the 1913 federal building from demolition, which was restored and renamed as the Jacob Weinberger United States Courthouse (SDUT 5/8/94).
In 1990 he approved a highly controversial and contested redrawing of San Diego City Council districts, resulting in the City’s first Latino/a majority council district.
William B. “Bert” Ritchey
Bert Ritchey was one of the greatest running backs ever to come out of San Diego, although he is not as famous as Lincoln High’s Marcus Allen or Helix High's Reggie Bush. Allen and Bush, like Ritchey, are black. The difference is Allen played in the 1980's, Bush in the 2000's, and Ritchey played in the 1920's.
Ritchey was born in a house at the corner of Front and F street in 1908. Things were different back then. There was a lot of racial prejudice in America, and San Diego was no exception. San Diego’s Archie Moore, the light heavyweight boxing champion of the world, could not move into one of the nicer sections of town, so he simply remodeled. The large, brick structure at the intersection of 94 and 805 still stands as a silent witness to San Diego’s past at the beginning of the 21st century.
Ritchey fared worse than Moore, because at least Moore was given a chance. Ritchey, who scored 15 touchdowns for San Diego High School in 1925, and 20 in 1926, was heavily recruited by top colleges, including coach Howard Jones of USC. After convincing Ritchey to join the team, Jones sat him down for most of his four years at USC.
Ritchey asked his coach about why he was riding the bench. The coach replied he wasn’t “interested in black players.” Ritchey asked, “Well then, what am I doing here?” James replied: “Well, since we got you here, we know you can’t hurt us by going somewhere else.” A team manager once tried to bribe Ritchey not to go to an alumni dinner. Despite such treatment and as a testament to his character, on a Thanksgiving during the Depression, Ritchey arranged and played in an all-star charity game to raise funds for the unemployed in Los Angeles (LA Times 11/18/31, 11/25/31).
Ritchey left USC and did a brief stint with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department around 1933. He joined the San Diego Police Department in 1935. When World War II broke out, Ritchey was drafted. He later said he was afraid, not about going to war, but having to go to Texas. “All the groups [of draftees] were being sent to Texas ... I had heard of problems [of racial discrimination] there and was afraid if I did have to go, I would not make it back.” As it turned out, Ritchey did not go, because the city used its authority to exempt him and other police officers from service.
Ritchey served in many different capacities while at the police department. The most significant were the years spent as a homicide detective and his involvement in setting up the investigative lab. While serving full time as a police officer, Ritchey obtained a law degree from Cal Western in 1962.
Ritchey retired from the San Diego Police Department after 28 years of service on Friday, May 29th, 1964. The following Monday, a letter arrived telling him he had passed the bar exam. The veteran homicide detective was now a newly minted lawyer. Ritchey joined the law firm of Alpha L. Montgomery Sr. , who later became the second black person appointed to the Superior Court (the first was Earl B. Gilliam). The Montgomery firm was well known for its involvement in cases involving civil rights. Bert Ritchey looked forward to a day when America would be a place of racial equality and equal justice, working throughout his lifetime to achieve this goal. Had he been born in a later era it may well be we would remember him as a great football running back. As it turned out, racial prejudice snuffed a promising career in sports. This prejudice, however, unintentionally funneled Ritchey’s talents into a career as a “Drum Major for Justice” – to coin Martin Luther King’s phrase – on the streets of San Diego.
John Edgar Roundtree
Born in Topeka, Kansas in 1880. He and his wife Mary had no children. Roundtree was a graduate of Washburn College, Topeka; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and John Marshall College of Law, Cleveland, Ohio.
Roundtree, who had been a real estate agent, was in his 30s when he obtained his law degree from Howard University. He first established a law practice in Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1918, Roundtree registered for the draft for World War I. After the war, Roundtree moved his legal practice to Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to California and was admitted to the Bar in 1931.
After he moved to San Diego he set up a private law office before joining the District Attorney’s Family Relations Division in the early 1940s. He served in the District Attorney’s Office for 18 years as the Deputy in charge of the unit investigating failures to provide for spouses and children (later named the Family Support Division). Roundtree supervised a small staff of investigators and clerks and handled thousands of cases involving fathers who were not financially supporting their families. He prosecuted these criminal cases himself. One of his perennial defendants was a vibrant boxing figure of the 1950s, World Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore. Moore, while not in court, would entertain John Roundtree’s staff and friends with exhibitions of his ring prowess.
When he retired in the mid-1950s, he returned to private practice. He was an honorary trustee of Bethel Baptist Church. He was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, a national fraternity formed in the early 1900's to unite, encourage, and support African-Americans who attended college.
A distinguished gentleman, loved and respected by all, John Roundtree was the only black man employed by the District Attorney’s Office in the 1940's and 1950s. Roundtree was a conservative and meticulous dresser with starched white collars, impeccable suits, and regimental ties – the epitome of dignity and civility. His mannered presentations in court and the respect he enjoyed with all who knew him was part of the proud tradition of our court system in the 1940s and 1950s. His excellent reputation for fairness, honesty, and candor existed throughout both the law enforcement community, the defendants he prosecuted, and the community at large. His stature in the profession continued throughout his long career and is part of the rich heritage of the Bar. He died October 14, 1961 at the age of 81 and was buried in Topeka.
Hon. Edward J. Schwartz
Edward Schwartz was born on March 26, 1912, in Seattle, Washington. He moved with his family to San Diego in 1915. As a kindergartner in downtown San Diego, he used to play on the steps of 325 F Street, the former Customs House and Post Office that later housed the federal courts during his tenure. He attended San Diego High School and started college at San Diego State University before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley.
He graduated from the University of California in 1934 and then University of San Francisco School of Law in 1939. He entered private practice in San Diego, 1940-1941. When WWII broke out, he joined the Navy as a lieutenant junior grade. He attended the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he met and married his wife Gertrude. He excelled in his Staff and Command Course, and upon graduation was assigned to Admiral’s Staff, a position he held until his service, and the war, concluded in 1945 as a lieutenant commander. His service took him to Africa and Italy, where he assisted in the invasion of Southern France. Soon thereafter, he participated in the planning and execution of the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He was stationed on the battleship “Nevada,” and was involved in planning the invasion of Japan when the war ended. He continued to serve as a Navy reservist.
After the war, Schwartz resumed his corporate law practice in San Diego and set up a partnership with Alec Cory. That partnership led to the establishment of the respected Propocio, Price, Cory & Schwartz law firm. After fifteen years of general business law, Governor “Pat” Brown appointed him to the Municipal Court in 1959. He was elected Presiding Judge of that Court and quickly earned a reputation as a hardworking judge of the “utmost competence, fairness, and understanding.” (3/29/68, quoting Senator Thomas Kuchel).
Four years later, he was elevated to the Superior Court and he served there until his appointment in 1968 to the District Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Schwartz took the place left by Judge Carter’s elevation to the Ninth Circuit. He became the third trial judge on the federal bench, but a year later, Chief Judge Fred Kunzel died, leaving only Schwartz and Judge Jacob Weinberger. The civil case load was crushing, but the pair had the heaviest criminal docket in the nation, estimated as high as four-times the case load of other districts. No civil cases were called in 1968 and they conducted omnibus pretrial conferences to handle the criminal backlog (LA Daily Jrl 4/1/98, SD Evening Tribune, 3/28/68). He served with distinction as Chief Judge of the District from 1969 to 1982, when the District was assigned five judges, and set the tone for the most collegial federal courthouse in the nation with his weekly Monday judges’ meetings at a local Chinese restaurant. His colleagues valued his wisdom, dedication, and counsel.
In an interview in 1981, Judge Schwartz commented on the difficulty of criminal sentencing. In state court, the indeterminate sentencing law allowed the judge to set the “term prescribed by law,” but in federal court, “I had to look the man in the eye and say ‘five years,’ ‘ten years,’ ‘twenty years.’ It was quite a sobering experience.” Schwartz, who prided himself on being a liberal who cared about the problems of the people, did not believe prison served the best interests of the community because no effort was made to rehabilitate inmates. “I think our system of penology is pretty much a failure” because people who spent time in prison were likely to be much less prepared to succeed in society than they were before they went in. (id.) “The difficulty the judge has is that he’s not dealing with a stereotype of ‘the criminal,’ he’s dealing with a human being.” (Id.) He took Senior Status, which was then mandatory at age 70, in 1982, and gradually reduced his criminal cases to handle civil matters exclusively. He served in that capacity until his death on March 22, 2000.
As a “senior” judge, Schwartz continued an active life as a dedicated tennis player and as an avid traveler, including bicycle tours around Europe. He regularly accepted assignments for trial in other districts around the nation.
Throughout his years, he was a beloved mentor to his law clerks, and he closely followed their careers with correspondence, regular lunches, and group reunions. In September 1994, the federal courthouse was named in his honor because of his determined effort to have the 940 Front Street building built. At the dedication ceremony, Schwartz laughed that it was an unusual move since a living person could still prove embarrassing.
Judge Schwartz was known for his patience, even-temper, compassion, quiet dignity, and detailed knowledge of the facts and law before him – “an outstanding judge who was fair, impartial and a true gentleman.” (SDUT 3/24/00 quoting Greg Vega). His kindness on the bench immediately put litigants and lawyers at ease, yet he was very sharp intellectually (LA Daily Jrl, 4/1/98). “He is completely fair to both sides, and no matter what the decision, both sides feel that they received a fair hearing on the merits.” (SDUT 3/1/82, quoting unnamed lawyer).
Barton C. Sheela, Jr.
Upon graduation from Stanford, Bart Sheela enlisted in the Navy where he became a carrier pilot in WWII. During the war, his squadron flew submarine patrols off the aircraft carrier Card to escort and protect ships sailing across the Atlantic. “In October 1943, pilots sighted a German submarine and forced it to dive. ¶ Mr. Sheela dropped a 500-pound bomb and sank it, according to his family.” (San Diego Union, April, 6, 1999, B-5).
After the war and with his law degree from Stanford, he joined the San Diego District Attorney's office. There he tried many high profile cases including acting as lead prosecutor in the liquor license scandals of the 1950’s. This prosecution included that of Freddie “the Bomp” Bompensiero. In 1955, he left for private practice and was a partner in the firm of Sheela, Lightner, Hughes and Castro. For the next forty years he practiced criminal defense and personal injury.
At one time, when attorney John O’Laughlin was his law partner, they represented codefendants in the Whisenand kidnapping case. Both clients were acquitted. But O'Laughlin was held in contempt. Sheela represented him on appeal, getting the contempt annulled (O’Laughlin v. Superior Court (1957) 155 Cal. App. 2d 415.)
He was also appointed counsel in the case of Corenevsky v. Superior Court, a capital case in Imperial County. Just before trial, the County Board of Supervisors said it was not going to pay him on the ground that such payment would allegedly "bankrupt" the county (Corenevsky v. Superior Court (1984) 36 Cal. 3d 307, 314). Bart was allowed to leave the case, and the judge struck the death allegation. But then the County refused to pay the public defender's request (ordered by the trial court) for expert and investigative fees. This led to an important Supreme Court case upholding the right to such paid services in criminal cases.
Hon. William Arthur Sloane
No more honored and honorable person ever has represented San Diego upon the Bench than did William Arthur Sloane. But notwithstanding the man's unparalleled judicial experience he never was able to wash the luring smell of printer's ink from his fingers. He was a newspaper man for six years in Missouri, and then wrote for the San Diego papers after coming here. In 1927, being over seventy years of age, and having served a long career as local justice of the peace and judge of the superior court, followed by terms upon the Benches of the State's District Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court, he still wrote for the "Independent", then a San Diego morning newspaper. And therein lies a story.
Following urgings of several reasonably prominent local citizens, a "letter to the editor" appeared in the Independent suggesting that Balboa Park facilities well could be used as the site for a small college. San Diego State College had not yet been built on the uninhabited "bad lands" above 'dobe falls on Alvarado canyon! The letter was published; and also a blasting editorial by Judge Sloane, taking the whole idea apart, degree by degree, from A.A. to Ph.D., and magna cum laude! The passing years proved Judge Sloane to be right, but that's not the story.
The letter writer was somewhat annoyed; and that Fall of 1927, in a corner of the original Park, Balboa University was started. Twenty five years later its name was changed to California Western. Somewhere in its memorabilia niches for instigating souls there well might appear the bust of San Diego's most widely experienced jurist, Hon. William A. Sloane!
In addition to biographies in various volumes of San Diego history, an excellent report of the Sloane story recently has appeared in "Supreme Court Justices of California" by J. Edward Johnson. Born in Rockford, Illinois, 1854, William A. Sloane received some schooling there before his family took him with them to Iowa for four years, and then to Missouri. He was graduated from Grinnell College, Iowa, in 1877. He studied law in his brother's office, and was admitted to the Bar in 1878. The lawyer-brothers then published the "Eagle-Times" newspaper along with their legal work.
In 1882 Sloane was married, and moved to Carthage, Mo., to edit the "Daily Banner" for four years- In the meantime, John, the brother, had moved to San Diego where he practiced law and served as city councilman and justice of the peace, William followed him here, succeeded him as J.P., and was appointed to the superior court in 1911, to the District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles in 1919, and to the state Supreme Court in 1920. In 1919, Judge Sloane joined other members of the Bench to urge ratification of President Wilson’s League of Nations peace treaty (LA Times, 10/1/19 & 10/15/19).
Sloane practiced here, 1923-28, and was drafted by the Governor to become Presiding Justice of the newly created Fourth District Court of Appeal in 1929. He died in office the following year. His ashes were scattered over the ranch he loved on the Sweetwater River. His memory, too, flows on -- and sweet -- in the thoughts of those who knew and admired him. (San Diego's “Legal Lore & the Bar” by Leland G. Stanford, 1968, p. 219).
Hon. Donald W. Smith
Donald W. Smith was born in San Francisco on September 23, 1923. He attended schools in Alameda and Santa Clara before attending the University of Santa Clara and graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 after which he attended the University of San Francisco School Of Law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1953 and after a short time in San Francisco he was enticed to move to El Cajon by his law school friend F. Joseph Doerr.
As a partner in the law firm of Lindley, Duffy and Smith he served as the Assistant City Attorney of the City of El Cajon and the Acting City Attorney of La Mesa before being appointed to the El Cajon Municipal Court to replace his longtime friend Joe Doerr. He was appointed by Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown April 19, 1962.The business of the El Cajon Court at the time he was appointed was primarily criminal law including cases from cattle rustling to serious misdemeanor felony preliminary prosecutions.
Judge Smith loved the law and knew it well as he served the Eastern San Diego Communities with distinction and grace. He respected his role as a judge and the significance of that role in the community. He was sometimes impatient with the delays in the process and constantly sought ways to improve the system always being alert to assure fairness and justice.He, along with his former law partner, Judge Thomas G. Duffy, worked tirelessly to perfect programs to that would help persons afflicted with drug or alcohol problems. He also proposed a diversion program for youthful offenders who had been arrested for petty theft and shoplifting offenses that would enable them to preserve their future by education and the ultimate dismissal of the charges against them. Many of the programs that he and Judge Duffy collaborated upon were far in advance of state legislative efforts, efforts that drew upon their experience.
Judge Smith was at heart a teacher. His love of the law inspired him to help all the young attorneys who appeared in front of him. He would call the attorney back into chambers after the case was concluded and congratulate them on what they did successfully and give them instructive comments on how to improve the art and skill of courtroom presentations. He was also an innovator in creating forms to speed up the legal process; such as change of plea forms to assure proper advisement of an individual's rights and the Trial by Declaration form to deal efficiently with traffic citations where neither the police officer nor the person cited would be required to be present thus saving time and expense.
Don Smith was appointed to the Superior Court by Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown in November 1979. In 1985 and 1986 he was the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court having already served as the Supervising Judge of the Criminal Law Division. In 1986 he was also President of the National Conference of Metropolitan Courts.It can be said of Judge Smith that he was one of the most influential persons in the careers of many lawyers, some of whom are now themselves serving the San Diego community as judges.
John Robert Sorbo Sorbo left public service with two of his associates from the District Attorney’s Office – John Butler, who subsequently became Mayor of San Diego, and Myron Kaminar, a distinguished litigator – to create an extremely successful law practice. He subsequently engaged in significant civil litigation and the defense of those accused of crimes. All three partners enjoyed reputations as remarkable lawyers with outstanding professional competence and high professional standards. Eventually, Sorbo left criminal practice and focused on civil litigation. He was a dedicated and well-respected lawyer. He died in October 2006 after battling prostate cancer for 11 years.
Born on November 5, 1921 in Omaha, Nebraska, John Sorbo passed away on February 7, 2006. He was a distinguished veteran of World War II. He was admitted to the Bar in 1949 after obtaining both his A.B. and L.L.B. from Stanford University. He came directly to the District Attorney’s Office from law school, and spent four years trying difficult and complex cases. Sorbo was one of the young, vigorous prosecutors hired by Captain Arthur J. O’Keefe. Though lacking in experience, Sorbo represented O’Keefe’s philosophy for trading enthusiasm and aggressiveness for experience and civil service status. Sorbo led a corps of young, extremely able trial lawyers involved in criminal trial work. He was a dedicated member of the bar and an inspirational figure for those who followed him the District Attorney’s office.
Sorbo also was instrumental in founding the Bar’s monthly publication and served as editor of Dicta for three years. He devoted many hours to philanthropic work. In the 1960s, Sorbo served for two terms on the Developmental Disabilities Board by appointment of Governor Ronald Reagan. He served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Bar Association in 1959, and thereafter was Vice President for two years.
Hon. Robert J. Stahl, Jr.
Stahl was born in Los Angeles on September 4, 1924 and remained in Southern California his entire life but for his military service. His undergraduate work was at Occidental College, where he was an accomplished high jumper on the Varsity Track Team. Following a tour of duty in the Navy as an Ensign, he earned his L.L.B. degree from the University of Southern California in 1949.
Service to others was a hallmark of the life of Robert J. Stahl, Jr. When he retired he was the longest serving Judge on the San Diego Municipal Court. He came to the Court after 13 years of distinguished service in the office of James Don Keller, District Attorney for San Diego County, where he rose to the rank of Assistant District Attorney, after exemplary service as a trial lawyer. He played a key role in shaping the transition of that office from a staff of 15 attorneys into one of the largest prosecuting offices in the country.
When he retired from the court, his fellow honoree, retired Superior Court Judge William T. Low, who preceded him as Assistant District Attorney, praised him as “. . . fair, compassionate, thoughtful and considerate...”. Low continued that Stahl was “a steady judge” and that litigants who left his courtroom “were aware that they received a decision based on the facts and his keen analysis.” (SDUT 9/30/89). In the late 1950s, Low and Stahl jointly prosecuted the Ruth Latham kidnaping case (LA Times 12/15/96).
His public service spread beyond the profession and the court, embracing many years of military service as a naval reservist, in World War II and Korea, where he served for three years in the office of the Judge Advocate General in Washington D.C. and then as a staff legal officer in the Commander Service Squadron in San Diego. He retired as a Captain. He also served All Hallows Parish in La Jolla; was an adult leader in Boy Scouts; was Chairman of the Eagle Board of Review; was Commodore of Mission Bay Yacht Club, where he pursued his passion for small boat sailing; and as a Rotarian.
After a brief time at the City Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, he moved his family to San Diego in 1954 (Dicta April 1968). Marvin Mizeur assured the Bench and Bar that it was privileged to have a new Municipal Court Judge of Stahl’s caliber and integrity because “[w]hen you meet him you immediately sense that he is a very capable, decent and fair minded man.” (Id.)
The crown jewel of his life was his family, his wife and five sons, two of whom are attorneys.
Hon. Robert O. Staniforth
Justice Robert O. Staniforth, a native of Colorado, decided to attend law school after a three-year high school teaching career. During his studies toward a Ph.D. in political science, he became fascinated by the legal process. He began at the University of Southern California Law School in the 1940's. His legal career started in 1945 with an appellate clerkship for “Wild Bill Healy” (William Healy).
He also clerked for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and for California Supreme Court Chief Justice Phil S. Gibson.
When he joined a law firm in San Diego in 1947, his practice began with criminal defense work and moved toward business law. While serving on the municipal and superior courts in San Diego County from 1959 through 1976, he participated in the adjudication of many criminal cases. He also served two years as presiding judge of the Superior Court criminal division. He was a driving force in setting up the criminal readiness department there and was awarded Judge of the Year by the San Diego Trial Lawyers in 1975.
In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Justice Staniforth to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One. Justice Staniforth served with distinction for 10 years. In 1979, the California Supreme Court named Staniforth to the Commission on Judicial Performance, an independent agency that investigates charges of misconduct by state judges. The Commission became a model institution for every other state (LA Times 1/29/81).
He brought to both criminal and civil matters his deep concern and respect for individual human beings and their rights and duties as members of society. For example, in 1980, he expressed concern that a Marine defendant accused of murder in North County courts might be tried by a racially imbalanced jury and ordered a feasibility study to try to determine how more blacks could be enlisted as jurors (LA Times 4/10/80).
For five years, he taught trial techniques at the University of San Diego Law School. Upon his retirement in 1986, he continued to accept numerous assignments to superior courts, Courts of Appeal, and private judging. When he died tragically and suddenly of a heart attack in 1995 at age 78, he was preparing to conduct an upcoming trial. Sadly, his beloved wife of 40 years, Ruth, soon followed him in death, of what their friends called a broken heart.
Justice Staniforth was happy in his work, producing 15 of his 258 published opinions after retirement. His passion was always for justice and respect for the individual.
Marguerite Dorothy Blackwell Stein
Born in Evanston, Illinois in 1924, her family moved to Miami and then to New York. At 16 years of age she graduated from Cathedral High School in New York City, and she then attended Hunter College of New York City. After college, she enlisted in the Navy and quickly earned certification as a shorthand reporter which she applied as a reporter in naval courts martial.
She was given a discharge so that she could work as a civilian for the Army at the War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. After serving at the Nuremberg Trials she worked in Vienna and Italy. When she returned to New York City she attended Fordham University. She married a Marine Corps Officer, Alfred F. Stein, and they had five children. After their divorce, she moved with her children to San Francisco where she earned the first of her four degrees, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, at the University of San Francisco.
She then moved with her children to Chula Vista and worked as a court reporter in the Superior Court of San Diego. While other court reporters were using machines, she still used the shorthand method. She loved the work so much that she soon enrolled at the University of San Diego, School of Law. She felt, according to her son, she could be a lawyer since she was smarter than a lot of the lawyers she saw.
Busy raising 5 children and working as a court reporter during the day while attending law school by night, she became the only woman to graduate from her class of 15 (the class was initially 47). All five children, the oldest of which was 16, attended her graduation.
She joined the Office of the District Attorney in San Diego being the first woman in three decades to become a prosecutor there. After just two years she got her first “murder-one” conviction. She enjoyed a reputation for being tough and aggressive. She also opened the way for other women to join the office as prosecutors. While working at the D.A.’s Office, Stein taught law at three colleges in the city.
In 1979, Stein left the D.A.’s Office and moved to Napa. There she worked for the county counsel’s office. She also served as a lector and minister. This latter role took her several times to halfway homes and mental hospitals. She studied the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. She soon associated with the School Sisters of St. Francis moving to Wisconsin. At that time she also earned a master’s degree in theology at the Sacred School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisconsin. She left the convent to go to Ottawa, Canada. In 1990 she earned her second master’s degree at the St. Paul Pontifical University at Ottawa. She continued to serve as a national canonist for the Secular Franciscan Order.
In 1994 she returned to San Diego to work as a judge for the Roman Catholic Diocese. In 1995, she moved to Santa Rosa where she was minister of the Junipero Serra Region of the Secular Franciscan Order.
In 2002 she returned to San Diego and continued to be active in the Secular Franciscan Order. Her life involved teaching, acting, singing, sports, law, and spiritual pursuits. Her experience in law ranged from the Nuremberg Trials on to murder trials in San Diego. In 2005, she died in San Diego from complications from heart surgery. She was 80 years of age.
Harry Steward After his service as U.S. Attorney, he took a year off to sail the South Pacific and re-entered private practice until his retirement in 1984. He passed away September 30, 1996, at the age of 74, in the city of his youth, Vista, California.
Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1922, his family moved to Vista, California. In 1932, the family started the Steward Trucking Company which transported fruits and vegetables to the Los Angeles produce markets. Young Harry worked in the family business while going to school. He graduated from Vista High School in 1939.
When World War II began, he joined the Army Air Corps and piloted 95 missions mostly over Athe Hump@ (the Himalayas) to and from India, China and Burma. He flew large transport aircraft on these dangerous missions to resupply The Flying Tigers and the Chinese government. 468 American and 46 Chinese crews perished in the endeavor. Steward was honorably discharged at the rank of lieutenant in 1946, and was awarded an Air Medal with cluster and four campaign citations.
In 1947, Harry entered the University of Southern California, graduating from the law school in 1950 to began a private practice for a large firm in Los Angeles (1950-53). He then became an Assistant U.S. Attorney there in the civil division before moving to San Diego to become the Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the San Diego office (1954-1957).
Harry left government service in 1957 to start a private law practice in San Diego during which time he helped lead the drive to incorporate the City of Del Mar, California. In 1960, he signed the Del Mar City Charter after the successful drive to incorporate. He was later recognized by city officials as one of the founders of the city.
Harry Steward was a fine trial lawyer. He tried dozens of cases, both civil and criminal, in the state and federal courts in San Diego, and was known as a creative and fierce litigator, with many victories.
He was also instrumental in the creation of another important entity crucial to the criminal justice in San Diego. The two defender organizations, Federal Defenders and Defenders, Inc., owe their existence in no small part to his organizing efforts to create them. His son, Dean Steward, reports that this was not easy. While helping to organize funding for the organization, Steward obtained a grant from the Ford Foundation through the NLADA National Defender Project. The grant required a matching grant from the San Diego County Bar Association, but the Association would not fund the match. Steward and then Chief Judge James Carter collaborated on a method of convincing the Bar of the excellence of the grant concept. The judge issued an order that lawyers in the County had to accept federal indigent cases and that the appointed lawyers were required to personally make court appearances and handle all aspects of the cases. The judge then proceeded to appoint partners in big civil firms. Soon thereafter, the Bar re-considered and granted funds to match the grant.
Harry Steward was named the first Executive Director of Federal Defenders, Inc. He brought with him two fine attorneys, Warren Reese, and John Hart Ely. Federal Defenders was a “community defender” because it was set up as a nonprofit corporation with a local board of directors under the Criminal Justice Act of 1964. It served as a model for the creation of other offices throughout the nation. As a result of the success of the project, soon there followed the creation of the state program, Defenders, Inc., responsible for the representation of indigents in state courts.
In 1969, Harry Steward was appointed by President Richard Nixon as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, a position he served in until 1975. Of his switch from defense counsel to chief prosecutor, Steward stated “I’ve handled a lot of grounders in my day, and it’s sort of nice to be at bat for a change.” (Dicta Oct. 1970).
Hon. Gordon Thompson, Sr.
Judge Thompson was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia and moved to San Diego with his family when he was 10 years old. He was educated in local schools and graduated from the University of Southern California Law School in 1925. Judge Thompson practiced with his father, Adam Thompson in San Diego. In 1931, he became an Assistant District Attorney and was re-appointed to that position in 1935. He was known as a first rate, tough prosecutor. He prosecuted many public corruption charges, for example, prosecuting a police officer for a jealousy murder in a love triangle and charging the Tax Collector with converting public funds to his own use. (LA Times 7/6/32 & 9/12/33).
In 1936, he was appointed to the Superior Court at the age of 32 (LA Times 1/25/36). He presided over many complex criminal trials, including death penalty cases (People v. Coleman, 20 Cal.2d 399 (1942)). He participated in the creation of an institute to inform alien workers of their rights and responsibilities as well as to dispel the attitude of suspicion held by the community (LA Times 10/28/40).
He was active in many community service organizations and served as President of the San Diego County Bar Association. He was a member of the State Judicial Council. At a unique ceremony at the home plate of Lane Field before a game against Oakland, Judge Thompson married Padres short-stop George Myatt to Georgia Smith, a girls softball team pitcher (LA Times 8/28/36 & 8/29).
Judge Thompson died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 9, 1948.
Hon. Howard B. Turrentine
Howard Turrentine was a local boy, a San Diegan through and through. Though he would travel the world far and wide, and serve others around the globe, for him, San Diego was always home and he never forgot his roots. In 1914, the year he was born in Escondido, San Diego had a population of about 55,000. Most people came from somewhere else. San Diego was a Navy town, without the Navy, if known at all, it was as a muddy backwater, the last place to gas up before crossing into Mexico.
Winds of change came the year Howard was born. In 1914, a month after he was born, construction started on the Santa Fe Deport downtown. Later that year the Marine Barracks established a model Marine camp on the Exposition Grounds in Balboa Park and John D. Spreckels gave his Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park to the people of San Diego. The last day of 1914 ended with a cymbal clash when President Woodrow Wilson, standing in Washington D.C., pressed a Western Union telegraph key which turned on the lights and set off fireworks for the opening of the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.Howard attended local schools and graduated from San Diego State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936. At the urging of his uncle, Superior Court Judge Lawrence N. Turrentine, Howard enrolled in U.S.C. law school and graduated in 1939. As what Winston Churchill referred to as the "Gathering Storm" appeared on the horizon, Howard joined the Navy in May of 1941, seven months before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was sent to intelligence school and was cleared to receive ULTRA intelligence (decryptions of enemy message traffic). Lieutenant Turrentine served as intelligence officer aboard the Cruiser U.S.S. Phoenix, used by General Douglas MacArthur as his flagship for the invasion of the Admiralties Islands in March of 1944. Lieutenant Turrentine briefed General MacArthur on the Phoenix before the Admiralties Islands invasion. The Phoenix was later involved in the battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of World War II, and by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.
He was awarded the Commendation Medal by Vice Admiral T.C. Kincade and Rear Admiral Russell R. Berkey for intelligence work during the Philippines Campaign and in preparation for the Battle of Surigao Strait. He received the Philippine Liberation medal with two stars, Asian Pacific Medal with one star, American Campaign Medal and the American Defense Medal. In April of 1945 he was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. and was discharged in December, 1945.He returned to San Diego in December of 1945 and opened up his own law practice. He was elected President of the San Diego Bar Association three years later, in 1948. After 20 years in private practice, he was appointed to the Superior Court by then Governor (future President) Ronald Reagan in 1968. Two years later, in 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
In 40 years on the bench Judge Turrentine heard many cases, not only in San Diego, but around the world, from American Samoa, Guam, Saipan, Houston, Tampa, Chattanooga, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. He sat with the Ninth Circuit and the United States Military Court of Appeals. He made a lasting impression on lawyers who appeared in front of him as well as law clerks who worked behind the scenes. They thought so much of him that they set up a fund in his name at the Gould School of Law at U.S.C., which among other things provides tuition and support for students from San Diego or ones who received their undergraduate education there.He had a rugged, almost tough guy appearance. First impressions of young lawyers was they were in for a hard time, but this proved not to be the case. Judge Turrentine didn’t bark and growl at young lawyers, he showed patience and tolerated rookie mistakes. He was well-mannered and listened. His reasoning was sensible, practical, he thought with his feet planted firmly in the ground. Four major cases, one involving water rights in the Imperial valley, another the constitutionality of extended border searches, another the interpretation of the Atomic Energy Act, and another whether a prosecutor was required to provide exculpatory information to a defendant before he were all reversed by the Ninth Circuit. All four were appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the Ninth Circuit and affirmed Judge Turrentine.
He didn’t shy away from difficult cases. "He liked working on cases that were intellectually challenging," his former law clerk and prominent attorney Bob Coffin observed. Chief Judge Irma Gonzalez called him a "great mentor" and someone she could go to whenever she had legal issues to discuss. Senior U.S. District Court Judge William Enright called him the "dean of our court," and referred to him as "a wise and intelligent judge." Retired District Court Judge Lawrence Irving said he was a "great role model for younger judges."
When sworn in as a judge for the first time in 1968, Judge Turrentine said he hoped when all was said and done "lawyers will say that to practice in his court was a pleasant experience, that he was a fair and impartial judge, he was a good judge."So let it now be said: to practice in his court was a pleasant experience. He was a fair and impartial judge. He was a good judge.
Thomas J. Ulovec
Born Dec 6, 1952, Tom attended and graduated from Crawford High School (1971) where he excelled in speech and debate. Even then, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. He was encouraged in this by the interest of his father, Bob, a savings and loan professional who had aspired to be a lawyer.
Tom attended and graduated from University of San Diego for his undergraduate degree and then graduated from USD's Law School. He was admitted to the Bar in 1978. He set up his law practice in Chula Vista and over time became known to his brothers and sisters of the defense bar as “Mr. South Bay.” To him would go the phone calls from colleagues asking questions about the local judges and procedural anomalies, and he gave generously of his time and fielding these questions. As a defense attorney, Tom was dedicated to the goal that everybody deserved a fair trial.
As time progressed, he defended the tougher cases and was well respected as a trial advocate. One of his most publicized court cases, although not the more serious, was the 1991 case of the "Billboard Bandit," Donald G. House, a Clairemont painting contractor. House had waged a war against smoking by defacing billboards advertising cigarettes including one at Qualcomm Stadium. After admitting defacing 46 billboards, he was convicted on four counts of vandalism.
Tom also taught evenings for 15 years as an associate professor of law at his alma mater, the University of San Diego. In addition to his business law practice and teaching, Tom was very active in bar matters. He was a member of the San Diego County Bar Board of Directions, was president of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association, president of the South Bay Bar Association and served on the Board of Directors of the State Bar Convention.
An avid golfer, sports fan, Civil War, movie buff and animal lover, he was also a contributor to the San Diego Art Museum, the San Diego Historical Society, the Museum of Natural History, the Reuben H. Fleet Space Center and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Tom found time to do it all and live life to the fullest. On September 18, 2002, he died far too young at age 49. The County Board of Supervisors adjourned their meeting of October 1, 2002 in his memory.
Michael H. Walsh
Mike was a superstar in everything he did. Born in Binghamton, New York on July 8, 1942 he moved with his family to Portland, Oregon where he became an all-state football player. He attended and graduated from Stanford University in 1964. He was in the first class of White House Fellows, serving in 1965 to 1966 as Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Agriculture.
He subsequently graduated from Yale Law School. At Yale, Walsh received numerous awards, including Best Individual Argument in the Moot Appellate Court Competition. He published law articles in the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Review of Law and Social Action (Dicta).
Though he attended college and law school on scholarships, Walsh turned down several lucrative job offers from large firms in Washington, D.C. in favor of the defenders’ job because “I’m a high risk taker. I have always been a highly energetic person and I have always enjoyed doing things where argumentatively I made a difference.” (LA Times 1/13/80 & 4/10/80).
After Yale, he began his career representing indigent defendants in the Federal Defenders Office of San Diego. He next worked on the state court side with Defenders Inc. of San Diego. He subsequently entered private practice with Sheela, Lightner, Hughes and Castro. In 1977, at age 35, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as United States Attorney for the Southern District of California.
Walsh was not “afraid to make tough and sometimes controversial decisions.” For instance, he personally prosecuted four U.S. Border Patrol Agents for abusing the civil rights of illegal aliens because the case “needed the full weight of our office behind the prosecution” and because “it is up to the federal government to ‘clean its own house.’” (Id.) The case marked the first time that brutality charges against illegal aliens made its way into the courts (LA Times 4/10/80). Upon reaching a settlement, Walsh stated he was pleased with the result because “We set out to establish that illegal aliens have protection of the Civil Rights Act. We also set out to establish that the federal government has the courage and wherewithal to prosecute federal officers when they knowingly and intentionally violate the civil rights of aliens. That may sound obvious, but that is not an inconsequential step, because its never been done before.” (LA Times 1/30/80).
Walsh also successfully prosecuted another first in the District when a Ku Klux Klan member was convicted of civil rights violations against a resident alien. Walsh also used the grand jury to investigate the shooting death of a black robbery suspect by a police officer in a case that caused racial tension in the city. (Id.)
In a 1978 interview for Dicta, Walsh stated, “I believe deeply in the adversary system and the due process model of the United States Constitution. If there’s one overriding objective I have, it is to demonstrate that this [U.S. Attorney’s] Office will always be fair and judicious in its employment of the enormous powers the Office has.” (Dicta Feb. 78).
Mike was a person who could do many things at the same time, and all at a high level. The Los Angeles Times profiled Walsh in 1980 in an article entitled “A Study in Commitment, Intensity” which described him as “hurl[ing] himself into work at a pace and with an intensity that both baffles and awes his peers.” (LA Times 1/13/80). The profile continued that Walsh was “an intense man with an exceptional energy; a man with an unceasing desire to do what is right;” “a brilliant attorney,” and “a man who motivates others to achieving high goals.” Walsh described his hard-driving style: “I believe in commitment, I believe in work, I believe in accomplishment.”
In 1980 he entered the business world, first with Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Indiana as a vice president. He was rapidly promoted to executive vice president of the company. In 1986 he moved to Omaha, Nebraska where he became chairman and chief executive officer of the Union Pacific, the nation’s third largest railroad. He held that position until joining Tenneco in September of 1991. He turned the 34th largest industrial company in the United States into a profitable organization as its chief executive officer.
He was also a member of the advisory counsel of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and served on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford. He completed a 14 year term as trustee of Stanford University. He was also very active in Common Cause.
He offered this advice on leading a major American corporation as chief executive officer:
Do it – if you choose to do it – because you enjoy this kind of work.
Do it for the challenge and the opportunity to change things for the
better. Do it because you care deeply about outcome – helping to
make America more competitive or making some other institution. . .
work better or differently. Those are worthy ends, and well worth the
Anselm Thomas Whelan He was a legend of the criminal justice system both as a skilled prosecutor and as an extremely able defender of the accused. His career is a rich and revered part of our heritage.
Tom Whelan was born in O’Neill, Nebraska on July 6, 1902, and passed away on July 3, 1969. He was the second child born into a large family of five brothers and two sisters. Most of his family was deeply involved in the law. His father Captain Edmund H. Whelan was a distinguished lawyer, who moved the family to San Diego in 1920. His brother Vincent A. Whelan became a Justice of the California Court of Appeal after serving as the Presiding Judge of the San Diego Superior Court. Another brother, Francis C. Whelan, was a United States Attorney in Los Angeles before becoming a United States District Judge for the Central District of California. Yet another brother, Quentin, was a prominent member of the bar who practiced civil litigation in San Diego. His brother, Ed Whelan, was a Deputy District Attorney (LA Times, 1/28/36). His sister Claire married the Honorable Roy G. Fitzgerald, of the San Diego Municipal Court.
He studied law in his father’s law office and was admitted to the California Bar in 1924 at the age of 22. He then returned to the University of Santa Clara to study philosophy and psychology. When he returned to San Diego, he entered the practice of law as Deputy District Attorney under Stephen Cornwell. After a time, he joined the partnership with father and Phil Smith (later a judge) until Tom was elected District Attorney in 1930.
At age 28 he was the youngest D.A. in the State, and he took office in January 1931. Thereafter, he served as chief trial counsel in some of the most complex murder and arson cases in San Diego county. He prosecuted the famous Alexander Pantages case, where Whelan defeated Jerry Geisler and an extremely competent team of Los Angeles lawyers. Pantages, a multi-millionaire vaudeville show man and theater owner, was charged with paying high school students to attend Hollywood parties (including weekend outings to San Diego and Agua Calando, Mexico) for immoral purposes, which the press dubbed as the “Love Market” case (LA Times, 3/11/31 & 3/12).
At that time, the District Attorney also served as the County Counsel. He was enormously competent as a trial lawyer and he was thought by many to be the most effective public servant the San Diego professional community had ever seen. He was “eminently resourceful, with a remarkable memory, and great knowledge of trial tactics.” (San Diego Union, July 4, 1969).
He not only enjoyed a brilliant tenure as a prosecutor, but was also a firm and able administrator. Many identified him as the effective head of both our City and County law enforcement. He was identified as “The Great T.” His great contribution to the office was his talent and his charm. He inspired intense loyalty and included on his staff were many subsequent leaders of the Bench and Bar – people such as James B. Abbey, Duane Carney, William A. Glen, John T. Holt, Bill Mahedy, Bert Melees, H. Pitts Mack, Frank H. Nottbush, Philip Smith, and Gordon Thompson, Sr.
With such an outstanding staff, Whelan was reelected as District Attorney in 1934, and during that time served as President to the California District Attorney’s Association. He resigned in 1937 to re-enter private practice briefly with his brother Vincent in the Commonwealth building. He was then reelected as District Attorney in 1942. He finally left the office to Don Keller in 1946. He thereafter became an icon of the criminal defense bar. He was dedicated to his children. One of his contemporaries Judge Robert Conyers, states: “His daughter Susan and son Jerome continue to light up his eyes.”
The cases he tried included the Daniel Altstadt murder case, the Max Osslo labor case, the Scotty Mortgage embezzlement case. He won them with the solid capital of old loyalties and that unconquerable Irish charm.
There is never any question that the man in the blue suit at the defense table remains a colorful, commanding professional, “The Great ‘T.’” (Dicta, January 1959, pp. 4-5). One of his former deputies, Judge William P. Mahedy stated: “He liked to be called ‘Tom’ even by those who worked for him. His whole life, from youngest manhood to its very end, was a devoted search for justice; it was truly an unending effort to bring about the ‘ascertainment and the declaration of truth.’ Material things such as high fees or wealth really meant little or nothing to him. His love was for people and their rights.” (Dicta, August 1969, p. 17). He took many cases, including long trials, without being paid. “By any standard, Tom Whelan must be classed among the legal greats, not only of San Diego, but of all California.” (Id. at 18).
San Diego Criminal Justice Memorial Committee
Hon. William B. Enright & Peter J. Hughes, Co-Chairs
|Judy C. Clarke
|Hon. David M. Gill
||Robert L. Grimes
|Hon. William J. Howatt, Jr.
||Hon. Richard D. Huffman
|Daniel G. Lamborn
||Alex L. Landon
|Charles M. Sevilla
||Milton J. Silverman, Jr
||Thomas J. Warwick, Jr.
Purpose: Our purpose was to create a remembrance of the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who significantly contributed to the San Diego County criminal justice system. They are part of the rich tradition and proud heritage of our community's bench and bar. We acknowledge them for their contributions, dedication and service. We do so to inspire present and future generations to honorable service in our adversary system. The current generation, and those to come, stands on the shoulders of the accomplishments of these fine men and women. Their dedicated participation in the justice system helped make our court system the envy of the world.
In eliciting truth and protecting constitutional rights, our system is second to none. These men and women understood due process fairness is essential to a criminal justice system. They knew the promises of our magnificent constitution could only be made real by daily labor in the courts of justice. They knew our civilization would be judged by the manner it enforced its criminal laws, and that it required diligent lawyers and judges to properly do it.
The justice system and its participants are mutually self-defining: where there are no lawyers, there are no laws, and where there are no laws, there are no lawyers. It is altogether fitting we recognize those whose lives and service helped fulfill the Constitution's noble promises of “due process” and "equal justice under the law.'' While we live, so will they be remembered.
Gratitude: Our thanks and gratitude are extended to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Greg Cox, the Federal Court Library Fund, the San Diego County Bar Association, and the San Diego Justice Foundation, Inc., for their generous contributions and support.
Process: Selections for the memorial were made as follows. The Committee made a tentative list of nominees and then held a meeting with representatives of all local bar associations, courts and relevant law institutions to participate as the advisory panel. Everyone was encouraged to pass on the persons tentatively nominated and to add to the list. Once the full list of nominees was collected, the Committee selected those whose names now appear on the plaque in the Criminal Courts Building and in these biographies.Future: Despite our best efforts, the list is no doubt imperfect in completeness. Thus, it is not cast in stone. The Committee will regularly meet to add to it based on new information.
The Committee did its best to include all those who were deserving, but we recognize no human endeavor is without imperfections. Because we did not include many worthy persons who lived and worked in the 19th and early 20th Century, we have added to this website a copy of the book by Leland G. Stanford (formerly San Diego County Law Librarian) entitled, “Footprints of Justice...In San Diego,” a compilation of profiles of senior members of the bench and bar from that era. We thank the trustees of the San Diego County Law Library for granting permission to include this important historical work and to make our endeavors more complete.