Wednesday, December 31, 2008
C.A. Justice Davis to Leave Court for Episcopal Priesthood
Third District Will Be Short Two Jurists as Morrison Is Also Retiring
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Third District Court of Appeal Justice Rodney Davis is leaving the judiciary after 25 years to become an Episcopal priest, the jurist told the MetNews yesterday.
Davis said he will retire Feb. 16. His departure will leave the court with two vacancies, as Justice Fred Morrison said yesterday he will leave Jan. 31 to join JAMS.
Davis, 59, explained that he was only stepping down now because the idea of becoming a priest had “captured my heart,” and added that he hopes to be ordained as a parish priest in June.
The son of former Assembly members Pauline and Lester Davis, he was born in Sacramento and attended college at UC Davis and law school at Hastings College of the Law.
Davis was admitted to the State Bar in 1974, and subsequently received a master’s degree in public administration from USC. He served under three attorneys general—John Van de Kamp, George Deukmejian and Evelle Younger—before his appointment to the Sacramento Municipal Court by then-Gov. Deukmejian in 1983.
Deukmejian also appointed Davis to the Sacramento Superior Court in 1985, and then to the Court of Appeal in 1989.
Davis has served as justice pro tempore on the California Supreme Court and presiding special master for the Commission on Judicial Performance during his career, and he currently chairs the Judicial Council’s Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Advisory Committee and the California Judges Association’s Judicial Discipline Committee.
A longtime Episcopalian, he said that he considered the idea of joining the priesthood in the 1970s, but decided not pursue it at the time. However, he said the idea continued to evolve over time, and that approximately seven years ago he began to seriously explore and work toward achieving it on the advice of his mentor priest.
He also said that he expects to miss being a judge, and that there will be times when he will wonder whether he left the bench too soon.
“I loved this work, and my colleagues were marvelous” he explained, adding that he would not be stepping down but for the chance to become a priest.
Davis also commented that as a parish priest he can be assigned at the diocese’s discretion, said he but expects he would likely remain in the Sacramento area.
Morrison, 67, told the MetNews that he was retiring in order to have more leisure time and focus on the next phase of his career.
“I figured if I was going to have a post-judicial career, I’d better get on with it.”
Born in Honolulu prior to Hawaii achieving statehood, Davis graduated from college at Purdue University in 1963 and served the following 12 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, where he served as a platoon leader in Korea, and later commanded a transportation company in Vietnam before ultimately rising to the rank of major.Two justices of the Third District Court of Appeal confirmed yesterday that they will retire early next year.
Morrison is a military veteran and ex-prosecutor who has spent the last 23 years on the bench.
Following his tour in Vietnam, Morrison attended law school at the College of William and Mary while in the Army’s excess leave program, and upon his graduation in 1971 served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for four years. In his final assignment he was an instructor and assistant staff judge advocate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Upon leaving active duty in 1975, he joined the California Army National Guard, serving from second lieutenant to brigadier general over the following 18 years.
He also became a law professor at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, in Sacramento in 1975, where he taught criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence until 1982, and continued to serve as an adjunct professor at the school for another seven years.
Prior to his appointment by Deukmejian to the Sacramento Municipal Court in 1985 as Davis’ replacement, Morrison served for three years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Sacramento specializing in the prosecution of white collar crime for approximately four years.
Deukmejian appointed Morrison to the Sacramento Superior Court in 1989, and then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the Court of Appeal in 1994.
Morrison continued to teach while serving both as a federal prosecutor and judge, and recently served as a distinguished special lecturer in the University of New Haven’s National Security graduate program, teaching a course on military tribunals, courts-martial and federal courts.
He has also served as vice-president and secretary-treasurer of the Sacramento County Bar Association; as a founding member and then president of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court; and as a member of the governing board of the California Center for Judicial Education and Research and the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules for Publication of Court of Appeal Opinions.
Morrison quipped that the biggest change he had witnessed on the court during his time on the bench was that the other judges “have gotten a lot younger.”
Although he compared serving on the Court of Appeal to serving on the Superior Court as being “like reading a book” about something “instead of being there in person,” he said he liked the former better, and indicated he was happy to have had a “fascinating career.”
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company