Orange County One-Hundredth Anniversaries

In recent years, to commemorate historic occasions and other events, the Supreme Court has convened for oral argument at special sessions in Fresno, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Ventura Counties and at the B. F. Hastings Building in Old Sacramento. These special sessions provide opportunities for students and other interested members of the general public to observe argument before the court.

The Supreme Court also convenes to honor justices and court staff in memorial services. See the Justices page, under the name of the individual justice, for memorials for selected members of the Supreme Court. In one exceptional instance, Bernard Witkin – the preeminent California legal scholar, was also honored in this way.



The Supreme Court of California convened in the courtroom in the Old Orange County Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Boulevard, Santa Ana, California, on October 4, 2001, at 10:00 a.m.

Present: Chief Justice Ronald M. George, presiding, Associate Justices Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, and Brown, and Presiding Justice Mildred L. Lillie. Officers present: Frederick K. Ohlrich, Clerk; and Harry Kinney, Supreme Court Marshal.

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Good morning. We are assembled here today for a special session of the California Supreme Court held in the Orange County courthouse. On behalf of the Supreme Court, I want to thank the Orange County Bar Association and the Orange County Superior Court for inviting us to join in this celebration of the 100th anniversary of the bar association and of the Old County Courthouse where the bar had its start. As we celebrate the history of this bar and this building we are making a little bit of history on our ownæthis is the first time that the supreme court has held an oral argument session in Orange County.

Although this is the court’s first visit here, Orange County has been well represented on the Supreme Court. In the audience today is retired Justice John Arguelles and his wife Martha. He joined the Supreme Court in 1987, coming to it from Orange County, and he returned here after he stepped down.

Other Supreme Court justices have had connections to Orange County. Former Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas resided in Los Alamitos when he was appointed to the court in 1984. Justice Marcus Kaufman is a current resident. Former Chief Justice Donald Wright was born in Placentia in 1907, and Justice Cruz Reynoso attended grammar school in La Habra in the 1940’s. In short, there are many connections between Orange County and the Supreme Court.With me today are the members of the present Supreme Court, and I would like to take a moment to introduce them to you. To my right is Associate Justice Joyce Kennard, the Supreme Court’s Senior Associate Justice. Next to her is Justice Kathryn Werdegar, and next to her Justice Janice Brown. To my left is Associate Justice Marvin Baxter, and next to him is Justice Ming Chin.

Seated next to Justice Chin is Presiding Justice Mildred Lillie of the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Seven, located in Los Angeles. She will be serving by assignment as a justice pro tem on the case that will be argued before us this morning after the close of this special proceeding.

I wanted to note that Justice Lillie has seen a good share of California history from the bench. She was first appointed to the municipal court in 1947, and continues her long and distinguished career on the bench to this day.

I would also like to welcome Presiding Judge of Orange County Superior Court C. Robert Jameson, and Danni Murphy, President of the Orange County Bar Association, Supervisor Cynthia Coad, Chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and Senator Joseph Dunn, whose district encompasses much of Orange County. We shall be hearing from them in a few minutes. There are many other distinguished guests from the community and the courts, including the Court of Appeal, who are in attendance here with us today, but there is not time to recognize them all individually.

I also want to welcome the Orange County high school students who are viewing these proceedings at a separate location through a video link, and other members of the bench, the bar, and the community who are watching this morning’s activities via closed-circuit television, and I understand that students from Orange County’s two law schools, Western State University Law School and Chapman University Law School, will be present during the various oral arguments.

Justice Lillie is serving in a special capacity today. One of the historic figures on our court, Justice Stanley Mosk, died last June. The court has continued to adhere to its oral argument schedule. As is always the case when a justice is unable to sit, I have assigned Court of Appeal justices, like Justice Lillie, from an alphabetical list, to serve as Supreme Court justices pro tem—each sitting for one case with the court.

Justice Mosk served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court for almost 37 years. Throughout his career Justice Mosk was known for his dedication and scholarship. His opinions often provided illuminating guidance—not only for California’s courts but nationwide.

A few days ago Governor Gray Davis named United States District Court Judge Carlos Moreno as his nominee to fill the vacancy left by Justice Mosk’s death. Upon his confirmation to Justice Mosk’s seat, Justice Moreno will have both a fine model to aspire to and a difficult act to follow. His confirmation hearing before the Commission on Judicial Appointments will be held on October 17. As chair of that commission, it would not be appropriate for me to make any comments about the individual nominee, but I can say on behalf of my colleagues on the court that we are very much looking forward to having a new permanent member join us on the bench.

In January 2000, the Supreme Court celebrated its own 150th anniversary in an historic courtroom located in Sacramento. Recently renovated, the courtroom, situated on the second floor of a building in Old Sacramento, is the earliest surviving home of the Supreme Court, where the court sat in the 1850’s and 1860’s. In fact, our court began operations a few months before California formally joined the union as a state.

One hundred or 150 years ago may seem like a very long time. And in terms of the changes that have occurred over this period, that may be an accurate assessment. At the same time, however, it gives one a new perspective to realize that for more than one-third of the 100 years this courthouse has stood—and for nearly one-quarter of our entire state’s historyæJustice Mosk was serving on our state’s Supreme Court. And Justice Lillie, of course, has served as a judge for more than half this building’s existence.

In the course of doing some research for this ceremonial session, I discovered that Orange County became a separate county only in 1889 æ breaking away from Los Angeles County.

In 1893, property was sold to the new county on condition that a courthouse be built upon it within 10 years. Interestingly, a jail first was built on part of the site, reflecting perhaps a change in the priorities of the new county. Two years later, in 1889, a bond issue was passed for the purpose of developing plans for the courthouse. A contest was held to select the best plans for the construction of a courthouse—and the grand prize was the princely sum of $2,400.

After the original winner was disqualified for trying to bribe some of the county supervisors, Los Angeles architect C. L. Strange was selected to proceed in 1900. The original designs for the structure included some lavish details that were omitted when the building was constructed. The marble wainscoting in the main floor corridors was replaced with tile work, and the bronzed doors at the main entrance became oak.

The building was dedicated on November 12, 1901. It was designed not only as a courthouse, but also as the home of the county clerk, recorder, treasurer, auditor, tax collector, assessor, board of supervisors, district attorney, school superintendent, sheriff, county surveyor, board of education, and court reporter.

It contained one courtroom, chambers for the judge, the judge’s library, a law library and a school library. The building was built in a grand style, but in view of the large number of occupants, I imagine some of them gladly would have traded grandeur for more space.

Even so, it was a place for experiment—one of the first courthouses in the area to use electricity. Electricity was not always an abundant or reliable source of power—a problem with which we all can still sympathize—and the skylight in the rotunda, chandeliers, gas lamps and sconces were installed as supplements.

In 1914, a second courtroom was added, and after the 19th Amendment resulted in women not only obtaining the right to vote, but also sitting on juries, a lady’s room was added to the jury facilities.

The courthouse quickly inspired the bar. The Orange County Bar Association was formed by 10 lawyers who met in the new courthouse on November 22, 1901 æ ten days after dedication of the building. The first president of the association was Victor Montgomery, a Civil War veteran and one of one hundred lawyers in the county.

One of the first orders of business was the adoption of a bar constitution that included a minimum fee schedule and prohibited giving advice “on the street,” or “free advice,” except to a regular client. It appears that, unlike today, there was not much emphasis placed on making pro bono contributions to the community.

In fact, many things have changed in the one hundred years since this building and this bar association first became stalwarts of the community. Electricity still may not always be a completely reliable supply—but it is universally available. Pro bono work by attorneys is accepted as one of the obligations of being a professional. And not only has the composition of juries changed to include women, but opportunities for women have expanded to every part of society.

Those 10 founding male members of the bar association would be truly astonished to see their organization and the board of supervisors led by women and to see four women justices on the bench here today.

Female faces are not the only ones who might seem surprising to those early civic pioneers. Orange County, like all of California, has become increasingly diverse. Hispanic and Asian residents are an expanding part of the population, and your county is home to the first Vietnamese judge in the state.

Individuals from every background now serve on California’s bench at every level. They also can be found in the clerks’ offices, secretarial offices, and in uniform at the courthouse door. They appear as attorneys, litigants, and witnesses. They assist as social workers, translators, and probation officers. Every day, across our state, more than one hundred languages are spoken and translated in our courts.

Why then highlight the achievements of 100 years ago, when today’s world seems so very different? In fact, our history is what makes us what we are today. Celebrations such as this one offer a unique opportunity to step back and take the long view—and it is particularly fitting to do so in the context of a courthouse and of the lawyers who promote and defend the rule of law.

Winston Churchill once said, “The buildings we build end up shaping us.” Today’s event allows us to consider how we have been shaped as a community, what we would like to preserve, and what we would like to see changed in the future.

Courthouses serve many functions. They are symbols of the administration of justice. At the same time, they are heavily trafficked public places. Inside these structures, individuals can be disappointed or overjoyed, anxious or elated.

Courthouses must preserve the dignity of the work performed within their walls. At the same time they must provide the space, house the people, and accommodate the tools needed to accomplish that work.

Just as the population they serve has changed, courts too have undergone substantial alterations in the way they function. When we build courthouses today, our focus is on ensuring meaningful access for the community as a whole. The challenge is to effectively use available resources in order to create an appropriately dignified setting that acknowledges the importance of the decisions that are reached here—while inviting the community to participate and partake of the resources provided by the court.

Over the past decade, courts have focused in an entirely new way on their role in serving the public. They are looking beyond the confines of the courthouse to the greater community beyond. Courts have initiated a wide range of innovative practices and programs, including (1) improving interpreter services; (2) enhancing jury service; (3) funding programs to assist self-represented litigants; (4) establishing dedicated drug and domestic violence courts; (5) incorporating the community into ongoing planning efforts; (6) developing programs aimed at educating students about the judicial system; (7) holding public forums where the public can meet judges; (8) promoting pro bono service by attorneys; (9) cutting through red tape to facilitate adoptions; and many other innovations too numerous to mention.

One area in which the court system has been particularly activeæwithin the limits of the resources provided us by the state—is in improving online access to court information and services. Perhaps the most exciting development is a new self-help Web site, which was launched in July. It provides information on everything from how to find a lawyer to how to file papers in a dissolution or small claims proceeding to how to find a safe haven and obtain a restraining order if you are the victim of domestic abuse.

In the first five weeks of its operation, our Web site has had more than one million hits. In short, in a way that would be astonishing to those who came to court 100 years ago, our judicial system has been taking a leadership role in reaching out to the community, ascertaining its needs, and responding where and when it can.

Courts have realized that it is incumbent upon us to provide the leadership and accountability that demonstrate to the public that their confidence in the judicial system is well deserved. As demands on courts have increased, it has become more and more evident that we must take responsibility for setting a course for the future and for planning how to meet the needs of tomorrow.

Today’s event permits us all to reaffirm our shared history, to take continued strength from our diversity, to look forward to continued progress and to inclusion, and to celebrate with our nation’s long tradition of a strong and independent judicial system.

The last month has been a sobering and difficult time for all of us. But through it all, the people of this county, this state, and this nation have not panicked or lost faith. They have remained confident in the underlying strength of our democratic system and in our nation’s sense of justice and its commitment to the rule of law.

Today’s event reminds us that our system grew out of a determination and dedication of those who came before us. The fair and accessible administration of justice in our state will continue to flourish only if we remain committed to meeting the needs of the ever-growing and changing community in which we live, while remaining firmly committed to the rule of law.

Congratulations on your accomplishments, and thank you for inviting the Supreme Court to Orange County.

I now would like to invite Presiding Judge Jameson of the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, to give some remarks. Judge Jameson.

JUDGE JAMESON: Chief Justice George, justices of the court, may it please the court, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Orange County, and it is indeed an auspicious and historic occasion.

And I also want to welcome the dignitaries and bar officials who are in the courtroom today, the justices and judges of our court, and the hundreds of people who are watching in three satellite locations, high school students, law students, members of the public, members of the bar, additional judges who couldn’t make it to this room today, and court staff who are able to watch this historic occasion throughout the day.

This courthouse opened for business on October 1, 1901, and had its inaugural ribbon-cutting on November 12, 1901.

I have invited two special guests today who started their careers in this building. Everett Dickey was a fledgling young deputy district attorney who tried many cases in this courtroom and across the hall, became a municipal court judge in 1970, a superior court judge in 1973, was presiding judge of our court and now sits on assignment in retirement. Everett.

(Judge Dickey rises.)

In the late 1930’s a young fledgling deputy district attorney tried his first jury trial in this courtroom. Uniquely enough it was a murder case, and that deputy district attorney went on to be appointed a city judge for the City of Newport Beach in 1938. In 1947 he was appointed to the Superior Court of Orange County where he served with distinction and presided over the court.

In those days he was the fourth judge on the court. There were four judges. By comparison we have 109 judges and 39 commissioners with our court now, which shows the great growth of Orange County.

Justice Gardener was then appointed as the presiding judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in 1970 where he served until 1981, and he—and even some justices have remarked today about some of his opinions and remember those opinions as both significant in developing law and for their sometimes pithiness and humor.

Justice Gardener when he retired from the appellate bench became the Chief Justice of the Republic of Samoa, and when he returned from Samoa in 1990 to the assigned judge program he has sat full-time for the Superior Court up until a few months ago, marking almost 63 years on the bench. Justice Gardener.

(Justice Gardner rises.)

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Judge Jameson, I think you omitted one of the accomplishments of Judge Gardener, his renown book on surfing.

JUDGE JAMESON: Not only was he an author of a book on surfing, he was a surfer. He has written a classic book,“Bawdy Balboa,” which discusses the great history of Balboa which is worthy of note.

As you can see, Justice Gardener, when he sat in our court, spent every day in the lunchroom regaling the judges with stories, some rich, some sad, some funny, some serious about events in this courthouse. I wish we had time to share some of these events with him.

It is indeed an honor to have the court here, enjoy your stay, and don’t wait another hundred years before you come back.

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Thank you, Judge Jameson. I appreciate your remarks and also the outstanding leadership of your court. It’s been an innovation among the courts in California.


CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: I now would like to invite Ms. Danni Murphy, President of the Orange County Bar Association, and an attorney in the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to say a few words.

DANNI MURPHY: May it please the court, it is my great pleasure to welcome the court to Orange County on behalf of the Orange County Bar Association. We are very, very grateful to this court for accepting invitation to hold this session in commemoration of our centennial as well as the Old Courthouse.

This is truly a wonderful and historic event, not only to the legal community, but also to our citizens of Orange County. What a great opportunity for citizens to come and witness the finest justice system in the world in action, and what a great opportunity for them to learn, based on the cases the court will hear today, what justice for all, for everyone, for everybody really means in our system.

As the court has already indicated, on November 22, 10 Santa Ana attorneys met here in this very room in the newly dedicated courthouse, obviously not the old courthouse then, and formed the bar association. At that time we know from history that Orange County was almost still the wild, wild west.

Santa Ana could not even boast of a paved street, and as the court has said electricity was scarce—some things remain the same—and there were not very many telephones. In fact, the presiding judge did not own a telephone.

As our bar has taken a trip back to the future we have learned about those first attorneys in 1901. We have learned from our early bar minutes. We know that the more we have changed the more we stay the same. We know that those attorneys were concerned about access to justice and we know that they were concerned about the quality of the legal profession. We know that they took pride in this community and they were leaders in the county. We know that they helped to shape political and social policy and change, and so it is today.

I can proudly say that the bar’s dedication to access to justice has never changed for a hundred years and we will work diligently until we reach access to justice for all.

Since November 21, or 22, 1901, the bar and the courthouse have traveled on parallel paths, experiencing a continuum of historic events, and so it is today. We have many dignitaries and luminaries with us today from the legal community in celebration of this event.

On behalf of the bar and citizens of Orange County we once again express our great appreciation to this court and a thank-you to the court staff who are absolutely wonderful.

To all of the court, we are honored. Thank you.

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Thank you, Ms. Murphy.

Senator Joseph Dunn, who represents much of the County of Orange in Sacramento, is here to make some remarks. Senator Dunn.

SENATOR DUNN: May it please the court, distinguished guests, I just want to share a few brief thoughts.

We oftentimes wonder what it is that truly makes this nation of ours the greatest in the world. I believe this nation is the greatest because it was born out of a place, not of a people, but of an ideal, an ideal that is embraced in the last phrase of the pledge of allegiance that we often say to the flag, “with liberty and justice for all.”

But if we take a step back and reflect on those ideals, we come to the realization that they are oftentimes in conflict with each other, and the true success of this nation depends upon our ability as a society to balance liberty and justice. We—in the political process we have that burden.

Many in the room today, the court, have heard me say my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle represent the party of liberty. The colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle represent justice. We need each other. We need to battle each other, work with each other. That will determine our success.

In the political arena the greater burden in striking that balance between liberty and justice we all understand rests indeed with the judicial process, and we all here today recognize this court, the highest court of the state, carries an awesome responsibility in striking that balance between liberty and justice.

We wish you patience and wisdom, but we stand a great privilege to have you here in our midst of what we humbly consider to be the greatest county in the state, Orange County.

We are truly honored to have the court here. I’ll reiterate the statement of Judge Jameson. We hope it is not another hundred years before you return to our great county.

So, on behalf of the entire Orange County legislative delegation and I as a member of the Bar, humbly I believe the best local bar in the State of California, an individual who has stood before the superior court and appellate court here in Orange County, which happens to be the best in California in my opinion, we welcome you to Orange County, and with the patience of the court I have two resolutions from the California Legislature that I would like to quickly present, and I promise the court I will not read the resolutions because they are very long, but with the indulgence of the court, if I may?

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: I ask our clerk to accept them on behalf of the court. You may step forward.

SENATOR DUNN: The first one if I may, Chief Justice, is actually a presentation to the chairwoman of the Orange County Supervisors, Board of Supervisors, and that is a legislative resolution recognizing the hundredth anniversary of this beautiful courthouse in Orange County, and again as promised, I will not read the resolution, but it will be available for everyone to review.

Supervisor Coad, I present this on behalf of the Legislature.

SUPERVISOR COAD: Well, thank you very much, and, of course, it will be hung in a very prominent place of honor right here in the Old Courthouse.

SENATOR DUNN: Thank you very much.

And one other one, Chief Justice, and that is, Danni, also a California legislative resolution recognizing the hundredth anniversary of the Orange County Bar Association.

Again, I won’t read it, but I present it to you, Danni, honoring the hundred years of the greatest local bar in California.

DANNI MURPHY: Thank you, Senator. Thank you.

SENATOR DUNN: Thank you.

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Thank you, Senator Dunn. We now shall hear from Supervisor Cynthia Coad, Chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, followed by a presentation to Supervisor Coad by Ms. Murphy.

SUPERVISOR COAD: May it please the court and distinguished guests, it is truly an honor for me to be here today for this historic occasion. In the past 100 years the landscape of Orange County has changed dramatically.

Just as the Orange County Bar Association has grown from its initial 10 members to more than 7,000 today, the county has grown from its rural beginnings when we once harvested the nation’s citrus crops, avocados and walnuts, to today’s highly diversified region that produces everything imaginable from bioengineering to microchips which were, of course, unheard of a hundred years ago.

Though our economy and our landscape continue to go through many, many transitions, the creativity and spirit of the people of Orange County has remained constant. This 100-year-old building stands as a testament of our community’s ability to work together just as our wonderful justices continue to meet the needs of the community it serves so well.

When I was appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly to the Committee of Bar Examiners seven years ago I was privileged to work with the California Bar Association and witness just how prestigious California’s justice system is, so on behalf of the County of Orange I want to thank Senator Dunn for the plaque. It will be permanently mounted on this old courthouse’s walls to commemorate today’s very special session and 100th anniversary celebration.

Thank you very much for the honor of being here.


I believe there is a further presentation—


CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: — by Ms. Murphy to Supervisor Coad.

DANNI MURPHY: May it please the court, Supervisor, I am making the presentation to the County of Orange on behalf of the Orange County Bar Association, and as you said our 7,000 members actual—obviously this is not the plaque, but we have an extraordinarily gorgeous plaque that will be hung here we know on these wonderful walls.

We are very grateful to the County of Orange for its extraordinary efforts to bring this building back to its original glory. As you look around this courthouse you know the history, that it looks today much like it did 100 years ago when Judge John Wesley Howard presided here actually on the one court and married people, and it looks, the furniture, the ceilings, the fixtures—the only thing missing are the spittoons scattered around.

We are very grateful to your community’s and to Orange County’s support for our organization and for this courthouse, so I present to you a replica of the plaque that will be given.

SUPERVISOR COAD: Our thanks to the Orange County Bar Association. You can be assured not only will these plaques be prominently displayed but we’ll have a ribbon-cutting when they are mounted to show that Orange County certainly recognizes the quality of our justice system and the members that make up the Orange County Bar Association.

DANNI MURPHY: Thank you.

CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE: Thank you Supervisor Coad.

This concludes the ceremonial session of the Supreme Court. The court will be hearing oral argument in four cases during the remainder of the day, two of which arose in Orange County.

On behalf of the Supreme Court, I again want to thank the Bar Association of Orange County, the Orange County Superior Court, and the many individuals who have assisted in welcoming us here.

In recognition of the historic nature of this occasion, and in accordance with our custom, it is ordered that the proceedings at this special session be spread in full upon the minutes of the Supreme Court and published in the Official Reports of the opinions of this court, and that a copy of these proceedings be sent to the Orange County Bar Association and the Orange County Superior Court.

(Derived from Supreme Court minutes and 26 Cal.4th.)