Thursday, April 9, 2009
California Supreme Court Fetes Completion of Oral History Project
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The entire California Supreme Court gathered this week with four of its former members to celebrate the completion of a three-year project to document the recollections and reminiscences of former Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, and former Justices Edward A. Panelli, John A. Arguelles and Armand Arabian.
In a ceremony Tuesday at the Ronald Regan Building, the California Supreme Court Historical Society—a nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to preserving California’s legal and judicial history—presented the four former justices with bound transcripts of their oral histories.
The interview transcripts will eventually be catalogued and made available to the public at the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkley.
Oral histories of former Chief Justice Philip S. Gibson as well as former Justices Jesse W. Carter, Stanley Mosk, Frank C. Newman, Allen E. Broussard, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin have also been recorded by the society.
Funding for the latest chapter of the oral history project came from the society and the Santa Clara University School of Law.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George told the assemblage of justices, judges, lawyers, family and friends that the society “funds a number of worth causes and programs, but none is more important than our oral history program.”
He noted a recent law review article published in the U.C. Davis Law Review which characterized the California Supreme Court as “the leading and most followed” state court in the country since 1940, and stated that the Lucas court era was “the most influential.”
Such objective research “confirms what many of us subjectively know,” the chief justice said. “We are proud of the four justices we honor today, all of whom made important contributions to the court’s history and ongoing reputation.”
The four justices were each appointed between 1984 and 1990 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.
Panelli, a former Santa Clara Superior Court Judge and justice of the Sixth District Court of Appeal, served on the state Supreme Court from 1985 to 1994.
“It was a very, very interesting time,” he recalled, adding “I hope our interviews captured that.”
Arabian, a former Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Court Judge, and justice of this district’s Court of Appeal, said his time on the court from 1990 to 1996 was “a remarkable time,” recalling issues such as term limits and reapportionment which the court had faced.
“We bit the bullet, as we had to,” he remarked.
The former justice also discussed the sexual assault victim counselor privilege now embodied in California’s Evidence Code. The state was the first jurisdiction to recognize the privilege in 1980, and Arabian has devoted his time recently to advocating for uniform recognition of the privilege among all 50 states.
Arabian also champions recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and said he has been working on a book entitled “From Gravel to Gavel: A Story of Justice” which he looks forward to completing this year.
Lucas, who served on the Supreme Court from 1984 until 1996 and spent over 9 years as chief justice said when he presented with the leather-bound, gild-edged transcript:
“I don’t think of myself as garrulous…but I think it’s 750-pages that have developed, and I’m rethinking whether or not I am garrulous.”
A former judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court judge and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Lucas warned the audience that his oral history told “the raw, unvarnished truth” of his judicial tenure from his perspective, and would not be “let out of captivity” and released to the public until his death.
“I’m hoping it might be even more historical then, and grow like a fine wine,” he quipped.
Arguelles, a former Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Court judge, and justice of this district’s Court of Appeal, also kept his remarks light, joking that he suspected his history would be “very bland,” because he only served on the Supreme Court for two years from 1987 to 1989.
“This is a nice party,” he said. “Let’s do it again in another 10 or 15 years.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company