Stanley Mosk

Stanley Mosk (September 12, 1912 – June 19, 2001) was an associate Justice of the California Supreme Court for 37 years (1964-2001), and holds the record for the longest-serving justice on that court.

Early life and career

Mosk was born in San Antonio, Texas and grew up in Rockford, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1933. He was awarded a LL.B from Southwestern University School of Law in 1935 and admitted to the bar the same year.

After law school, Mosk practiced law and was executive secretary to the Democratic Governor Culbert Olson; he was appointed a Superior Court judge in 1942 at the age of 31, the youngest in the State. He faced opposition for re-election, but he prevailed. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. As a Superior Court judge, in 1947, he declared the enforcement of racial restrictive covenants unconstitutional before the U.S. Supreme Court did so in Shelley v. Kraemer. He also presided over many widely reported cases.

He was elected Attorney General of California in 1958 by the largest margin of any contested election in the country that year. He was re-elected by a large margin in 1962. He served as the California National Committeeman to the Democratic National Committee and was an early supporter of John F. Kennedy for President. He remained close to the Kennedy family.

As attorney general for nearly 6 years, he issued approximately 2,000 written opinions and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in the [ Arizona v. California water case] and other landmark cases.

Mosk established the Attorney General's Civil Rights Division and successfully fought to force the Professional Golfers' Association of America to amend its bylaws denying access to minority golfers. He also established Consumer Rights, Constitutional Rights, and Antitrust divisions. As California's chief law enforcement officer, he sponsored legislation for police officer training.

As a Supreme Court Justice

Although a favorite to be elected to the United States Senate, Mosk was appointed to the California Supreme Court in September 1964 by Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown to succeed the elevated Roger J. Traynor. He would go on to be retained by the electorate in 1964, and to three full twelve year terms from 1974.

Although he was a self-described liberal, he often displayed an independent streak that sometimes surprised his admirers and critics alike. For example, in "Bakke v. Regents of the University of California", [ 18 Cal. 3d 34] (1976), Mosk ruled that the minority admissions program at the University of California, Davis violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. This decision was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in "Regents of the University of California v. Bakke", 438 U.S. 265 (1978), which, unlike Mosk's opinion held that race could be factored in admissions to promote ethnic diversity. The United States Supreme Court agreed with Mosk in rejecting racial quotas. He also voted to uphold the constitutionality of a parental consent for abortion law--a law ultimately struck down by a majority of the court.

Although personally opposed to the death penalty, Mosk voted to uphold death penalty convictions on several occasions. He believed he was obligated to enforce laws properly enacted by the people of the state of California, even though he personally did not approve of such laws. One example of how he articulated his beliefs is his concurrence in "In re Anderson", [ 69 Cal. 2d 613] (1968):

cquote|In my years as Attorney General of California (1959-1964), I frequently repeated a personal belief in the social invalidity of the death penalty ... Naturally, therefore, I am tempted by the invitation of petitioners to join in judicially terminating this anachronistic penalty. However, to yield to my predilections would be to act wilfully 'in the sense of enforcing individual views instead of speaking humbly as the voice of law by which society presumably consents to be ruled. ...' [Citation.]

As a judge, I am bound to the law as I find it to be and not as I might fervently wish it to be.

One of Mosk's contributions to jurisprudence was development of the constitutional doctrine of "independent state grounds". This is the concept that individual rights are not dependent solely on interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts, but also can be found in state constitutions, which often provide greater protection for individuals.

Although Mosk was widely viewed as a liberal, he was not a close ally of Chief Justice Rose Bird. As a result of that and his independence, he was not vocally opposed at the 1986 retention election receiving 75% of the vote while the California electorate refused to retain Bird and two other justices closely allied with her. In November 1998 at age 86, Mosk was retained by the electorate for another twelve-year term.

Mosk served until his death in 2001, having surpassed Justice John W. Shenk to become the longest-serving justice in the history of the Court in 1999. He authored many significant opinions, some of which have been included in law school casebooks. He is considered to have been one of the most influential justices of the most influential state supreme court in the United States.

Stanley Mosk Courthouse

The Stanley Mosk Courthouse, which is main branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court, is located at 111 North Hill Street in Los Angeles and is part of the complex that includes the County of Los Angeles Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. The Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building is in the Capitol Mall in Sacramento, California. The courthouse is often seen in the "Perry Mason" TV series, when Perry parks his car on Hill Street to go inside the building.

ee also

* [ Text of speeches given in memory by Justices of the California Supreme Court, from the California Supreme Court Historical Society]

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