Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Page 11



State Supreme Court Provides Joseph Scott Biography




Joseph Scott—the lawyer who came to be known as “Mr. Los Angeles”—haled from Great Britain.

This piece of information on his background is contained in an Oct. 8, 1919 opinion of the California Supreme Court.

It’s not that opinions in those days included “personality profiles” on appellate counsel. Before the court was the Los Angeles Times’ appeal from a judgment against it, and in favor of Scott, in the libel case to which I’ve previously alluded...and biographical information concerning Scott had been admitted into evidence.

This was proper, Justice William P. Lawlor’s opinion says, explaining that such matters as “plaintiff’s prominence in the community where he lives, [and] his professional standing,” may be introduced to show the extent of the damages.

Writing for a unanimous court, he summarizes Scott’s testimony (with paragraphing added) as follows:

“That the plaintiff was born in England, where he was educated and matriculated in the University of London. That he came to this country while still a young man, and  for a time was professor of rhetoric and English literature in a college in Western New York.

“That he was admitted to practice his profession in this state, and in 1894 opened an office in Los Angeles, where he has been engaged in practice ever since. That he had a general practice, including considerable probate business, trial and jury work, with an occasional criminal case, and only a limited corporation practice. That at the time of the publication of the libel complained of he employed six lawyers and a number of stenographers in his office, his office expenses, including salaries, amounting to about $1,500 a month, and his gross income about $40,000 a year. That his practice had been built up from a modest beginning, it appearing that when he started he lived and had his office in the same room. That plaintiff’s practice extended to the various counties of the state, and to a large extent in Arizona. That he is admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts.

“That plaintiff was married in 1898, and at the time of the trial his family consisted of his wife and seven children.

“That he commanded the confidence of the people of Los Angeles, having been a member of the board of education in that city continuously from 1904 to 1915, and was five times elected president of the board.

“That in addition he was for ten years director and in 1910 president of the Los Angeles chamber of commerce; director of the Equitable Savings Bank and of the Los Angeles Investment Company of the same city. That he is a member of several clubs and of the county, state, and American bar associations. That the value of the defendant’s property is about $2,000,000.”

Further information about Scott appears in “Notables of the Southwest,” a collection of biographies published in 1912 by the Los Angeles Examiner. It mentions:

“Mr. Scott is a fluent and versatile speaker, his addresses being marked for their sound logic and wit, and he has frequently been called upon to represent the city upon social and civic occasions. He was Speaker at the banquet to President Taft upon his visit to Los Angeles in 1908, and Toastmaster at the banquet given to the officers of the battleship fleet during its stay there upon the trip around the world in 1908. He represented California at Washington in the successful fight for the Panama-Pacific Exposition to be held in San Francisco in 1915, and his work in this won praise at every hand.”

Those oratorical skills would be applied at a Republican convention in nominating the president of the United States for a second term.

His legal abilities would be applied on behalf of a myriad of clients, including an actress, Joan Barry, suing Charlie Chaplin in a paternity action.

Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company

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