Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Hundreds Pay Tribute to Mosk at Los Angeles Memorial Service
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Stanley Mosk, the longest-serving justice in the history of the California Supreme Court, was remembered yesterday for his compassion, his independent mind and his wry wit.
“Today we lay to rest one of California’s true legal giants,” Gov. Gray Davis said during a public memorial service attended by 400 people at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. “He stood up for those who had no voice.”
Mosk, 88, died at his San Francisco home on June 19.
In 37 years on the state’s high court, he authored nearly 1,700 opinions and set landmarks in civil rights, free speech and criminal justice cases.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George spoke at the service on behalf of all of Mosk’s colleagues on the California Supreme Court bench.
“Justice Mosk’s views could not be pigeonholed,” George said. “On a personal level it was truly enjoyable to spar with this man of great wit, warmth and charm. ... However pointed a dissent of his might be, he was always a gentleman and the ultimate in collegiality.”
Dignitaries from around the state filled the synagogue to remember Mosk as a champion of individual rights and a gentleman. In addition to Davis and George, the service was attended by former Secretary of State and current O’Melveny & Myers managing partner Warren Christopher, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and Judicial Appointments Secretary Burt Pines.
Colleagues in Attendance
Four former and five current State Supreme Court Justices attended, as did Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamonte, Los Angeles Mayor-elect Jim Hahn, Oakland Mayor and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas and numerous Court of Appeal justices.
“The goddess of justice is wearing a black arm band today as she weeps for Stanley Mosk,” Santa Clara Law Professor Gerald Uelman said in an alteration of a dissent authored by Mosk. “But her tears only add to the mighty river of justice that marks his legacy and it will refresh and inspire us for years to come.”
The justice’s son, Los Angeles attorney Richard Mosk, revealed that the justice intended to submit his resignation to the governor the day he died.
In his resignation Mosk wanted the people of California to know how grateful he was to them, Richard Mosk said -- a point amplified by Rabbi Steven Z. Leder.
“Never did Stanley forget it was the people who put him in his position,” Leder said. “Whenever someone told him that they voted for him, he always said that was the one vote I needed.”
It was Mosk’s gentle nature and compassion for people which the ten speakers noted as they came together to remember a person someone who has been called “a giant of California law.”
“He cared about the effect court opinions would have on the average man and woman,” George said. “The imprint he has left on the wall will be seen for decades to come.”
“He always kept in mind the common good,” former California Supreme Court Justice William P. Clark said.
The sentiment was echoed as Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Vaino Spencer of Div. One recalled reading of Mosk’s ruling as a trial judge that racially based restrictive real estate covenants were not legal.
“Although he had not suffered it personally, he suffered it deep,” Spencer said of the discriminatory practice.
Wanted No Ceremony
But there was more laughter than tears at the memorial service. In what Richard Mosk termed his “last act of disobedience as a son,” he noted that his father left written instructions not to have a memorial ceremony in the event of what the justice termed his “inevitable death.”
He recalled the justice’s own sense of humor, revealing that his father’s “promise not to return to haunt you” if his directions were not followed.
Mosk’s humor and quick thinking infiltrated everything he did on and off the bench, friends recalled.
It was Attorney General Mosk, Uelman said, who after 16 hours of closing arguments in front of the California Supreme Court, finished with a flourish by saying, “The real issue in this case is whether water is to be used for people in California or asparagus in Arizona.”
The court overwhelmingly decided 7-1 that it would be asparagus, Uelman noted.
California state Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton recalled asking Mosk to attend a law club meeting Burton headed at a time Mosk was running for attorney general.
Noting the Richfield Boran oil company signs around town outnumbered every other billboard in the city, Mosk quipped he would have done better in the last election if his name was Richfield Boran instead of Stanley Mosk.
Edward Sanders, former President of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, noted Mosk’s importance to the Jewish community he was the first Jewish person to be elected to a California constitutional position.
“Because of Stanley Mosk, candidates know that their religion is not a factor for the voters in this great state,” Sanders said.
The author of nearly 1,700 opinions during his tenure on the bench, Mosk was described by Uelman as “a workhorse in full harness right up until the end.”
Gov. Davis recalled the opinions written by the man who had “Libertas per Justitiam” (liberty through justice) sewn into the collar of his robe.
“Most of all we remember him for his words,” Davis said. “These were more than just words. They were vivid celebrations of liberty and equality as delivered to us by God.”
Davis presented Mosk’s widow, Kagey Kash Mosk, with a California flag that flew over the state Capitol the day Mosk died. The family was also presented with the brass name plate which adorned Mosk’s chair in the California Supreme Court for the last 37 years.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company