Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Display at County Law Library Commemorates Life of Justice Mosk, High Court’s Longest-Serving Member
By Patsy Moore, Staff Writer
Opening an exhibit to celebrate the life of California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk and his dramatic impact on California history and the law on the same day a prisoner was executed was a strange coincidence, his son, Court of Appeal Justice Richard Mosk, says.
The younger Mosk, who sits in this district’s Div. Five, notes that when his father served on the staff of Gov. Culbert L. Olson, the senior Mosk handled clemency and pardons requests, interviewing prisoners on death row and reporting to Olson. Later, his father was sitting on the California Supreme Court when it ended the death penalty, Richard Mosk explains.
Stanley Mosk’s long service to California is highlighted in a display entitled “Celebrating the Life of Stanley Mosk, 1912-2001”, now on view at the Los Angeles County Law Library’s downtown Mildred L. Lillie Building. The documents come from the California Judicial Center Library Archives in San Francisco, Gilbert Acuna of the County Law Library says.
The display covers a life that spanned turbulent times and documents Mosk’s participation in the political and social issues that enveloped California from his childhood and early public and political life to his service as a Superior Court judge, attorney general, and for 37 years as a California Supreme Court justice.
The display, which continues through Feb. 25, consists of selected photos and memorabilia from Mosk’s personal collection, which was donated to the archives by Richard Mosk, California Judicial Center Library Director Frances M. Jones explains. Jones says she was delighted when asked to bring the display to Los Angeles, calling it a great privilege to work with the papers of a man whose work covered more than a quarter of the California Supreme Court’s history.
Richard Mosk says he wanted his father’s collection and his legacy to be more accessible to the people of California and is happy that the materials are being displayed in Los Angeles. He says he would like to see a permanent exhibit in the downtown Stanley Mosk Courthouse, which was renamed for his father in 2002, since much of the senior Mosk’s early work took place in Los Angeles.
Mosk had a powerful influence on local government before he began working for Olson in 1939, his son observes, and continued his influence as the youngest Superior Court judge ever appointed at age 31.
The display includes a letter of resignation written to then-Gov. Earl Warren on March 1,1945, explaining that Mosk planned to join the armed forces in World War II.
A newspaper article included in the exhibit, dated Oct. 30, 1947, details Mosk’s ruling after he returned to the bench that racial covenants were illegal and “un-American.” It was only the second ruling to find such covenants unconstitutional in the United States in more than 50 years, his son notes, and took place long before the U.S. Supreme Court made a similar ruling in Shelley v. Kramer.
Numerous photographs document Mosk’s meetings with Harry S. Truman, Indira Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, among others. A photo of a worn tennis shoe commemorates an opinion written while Mosk was attorney general that declared:
“The cadre of the John Birch Society seems to be formed primarily of wealthy businessmen, retired military officers, and little old ladies in tennis shoes.”
Accompanying materials note that following this opinion, members of the John Birch Society mailed the then-attorney general hundreds of torn, soiled, and mismatched tennis shoes.
The California Judicial Center Library first displayed materials in San Francisco in 2002 to commemorate the first anniversary of Mosk’s death, Jones said. About a year later, the display was moved to Sacramento when the library was renamed the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building.
The County Law Library’s Mildred Lillie Building is located at 301 W. First Street. The library is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company