Tuesday, September 3, 2002
California Chief Justice George Named Rehnquist Award Recipient
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California Chief Justice Ronald M. George has won the National Center for State Courts’ 2002 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, the center reported Friday.
The award is presented to a state court judge who “exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics,” a center spokesman said.
Earlier this month, George became chair-elect of the center’s board.
The Rehnquist Award is named after the U.S. chief justice, who will make a presentation to George this fall at a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Center President Roger K. Warren called George’s career extraordinary, “not only because he has served at every level of the American state court system, but also because he has left his mark at every level...improving the justice system every step of the way.”
George began his legal career as a California deputy attorney general, where he represented the state in 11 cases before the state Supreme Court. In People v. Anderson, in 1972, he was unsuccessful in defending the death penalty statute from an attack under the state Constitution’s “cruel or unusual punishment” clause.
But the same year he prevailed in People v. Sirhan, in which the court upheld the conviction of the man who murdered Sen. Robert Kennedy. Later that year he was appointed, at age 32, to the Los Angeles Municipal Court.
In 1977, while George was preparing to run for the Superior Court, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the post.
On the Superior Court, he presided over the trial of “Hillside Strangler” Angelo Buono Jr. for the murders of 10 women and became best known for his controversial decision to reject Los Angeles District Attorney John Van de Kamp’s motion to dismiss the charges and to transfer the case to Attorney General George Deukmejian. George’s decision was later vindicated as the jury convicted Buono.
Then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed George to the state high court in 1991, and he became chief justice in 1996.
In addition to his position as chair-elect of the National Center for State Courts, George was also elected last month as president-elect of the Conference of Chief Justices. He will hold the positions for a year and then take over the top jobs from New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company