Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 26, 2009


Page 1


Retired C.A. Justice James H. Hastings Dead at 91


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Retired Court of Appeal Justice James Hastings has died of cancer at 91.

The jurist, who retired in 1987 but continued to sit on assignment and worked as a private judge until about 10 years ago, died Tuesday night at home with his family present, his son J. Gary Hastings told the MetNews.

The younger Hastings, himself a retired Court of Appeal justice, said his father had remained physically active—painting, traveling, occasionally playing golf, and attending various social events—before being diagnosed last July. He subsequently underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but was in a good deal of pain and decided to end treatment and begin hospice care last Wednesday.

That decision, Gary Hastings said, reflected the views his father expressed in Bartling v. Superior Court (1984) 163 C.A. 3d 186, which he wrote for a unanimous panel of this district’s Div. Five. The ruling, which drew international attention at the time, said that a man being kept alive on life-support systems against his will had a right to die.

“The right of a competent adult patient to refuse medical treatment is a constitutionally guaranteed right which must not be abridged,” Hastings wrote, even if his doctors and the hospital that employed them “would view disconnecting a life-support system in a case such as this one as inconsistent with the healing orientation of physicians.”

The justice declared:

“We do not doubt the sincerity of [the doctors’ and hospital’s] moral and ethical beliefs, or their sincere belief in the position they have taken in this case. However, if the right of the patient to self-determination as to his own medical treatment is to have any meaning at all, it must be paramount to the interests of the patient’s hospital and doctors.”

Hastings was born in Los Angeles in 1917. His father, attorney James N. Hastings, practiced into his 90s and died in 1990 at the age of 104.

He played water polo at USC and graduated in 1940. He entered the Navy in 1942—serving on a destroyer in the North Atlantic and teaching navigation and seamanship at UCLA—and left active duty in 1945.

He then served 20 years in the Naval Reserve, part of it as head of the Naval Intelligence Reserve Division of the 11th Naval District, before retiring with the rank of captain.

He earned his law degree, also from USC, in 1948, joining his father’s firm—which became Hastings, Blanchard & Hastings—and handling business and real estate matters.

The future jurist also lectured on insurance law at USC in 1949, and taught business and real property law at Southwestern Law School for 10 years. Hastings also chaired the board of the Bank of Pasadena in 1966 and 1967 and the Commission on the Unauthorized Practice of Law in 1969 and 1970.

He was named chair of the state Disciplinary Board in 1971, serving in that post until May 1972 when he was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. A year later, Reagan elevated him to the Court of Appeal, from which he retired in 1987.

He sat on virtually full-time assignment until 1989, then became a private judge with Alternative Resolution Centers.

For two months in 1986, he sat alongside his son, who was assigned to Div. Five while serving as a Los Angeles Superior Court  judge. Gary Hastings, who was appointed to Div. Four of the Court of Appeal in 1993 and retired in 2006, remarked yesterday that his father’s nickname on the court was “Gentleman Jim,” reflecting his belief in collegiality, even in the face of disagreement.

There will be no funeral, Gary Hastings said, and the justice’s ashes will be scattered at sea. A private memorial may take place later.

Survivors include the justice’s wife, Margaret (Margie) Hastings, and sons Gary, Neil and Dean Hastings, along with five grandchildren.


Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company