The 1960s: A Maelstrom

   Well, here we are. I can’t believe this is the 8th article that I have sat down to write.

  Nineteen-Hundred-Sixty, and the ten years that followed, built a cornerstone in my personality more prominent than any other group of years that I can remember. While I do not know whether the same occurred for my fellow OCBA members, I can express the importance of this time upon our OCBA.

  During the State Bar Convention, after witnessing the first Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Mark Soden, our president at the time, had this to say about his night: “The Orange County delegation crowded in my suite for cocktails and to watch the debate. At the end, I polled the group. The result: all Republicans voted for Nixon and all Democrats voted for Kennedy. What else is new?”

Soden’s Question Would Soon be Answered

  That same year a Resolution was brought to the Bar in order to determine “whether a particular shingle is advertising or not.” The minutes continued: “The test is whether the sign is intended and calculated to enable persons looking for a lawyer, already selected, to find him. Or was it to attract the attention of persons who might be looking for a lawyer, although not for him.”

  These conditions were included in the final Resolution: “Members may use a sign designating the name of their building, but nowhere on the sign will the name of the lawyer appear. The size of the lettering was not to exceed eight square inches per letter. The sign may be illuminated by indirect lighting during normal business hours only, such as floodlights in front or behind the lettering. Directly illuminated letters will be considered ‘unethical.’ Furthermore, members may use an outside sign for their name as long as these letters do not exceed four inches square and they do not indicate the member’s specialty. Occupation descriptions more specific than ‘Lawyer’ were also improper.”

Chubby Checker Invented “the Twist”

  In 1961, the OCBA put forth a real effort into expanding its size by incorporating as many lawyers in the county as it could. Robert H. Jacobs, president of that year, recalls one conversation with past president, Clarence Sprague. “He was discussing this as a project we should get to work on as it had been pending for a long time. Many new lawyers were starting up their practices throughout the county and some were holding a few local meetings. The time had arrived when we should have a more attractive central bar association to be of interest to all Orange County lawyers, and to be able to service their needs and those of the public. The days of a small country bar with most all activities centered in Santa Ana were clearly over.”

  Obviously, incorporating more members meant more cases and fewer places to fit all those cases. So, in 1961, four more Superior judges were appointed. Now, the question of where were these judges going to have their proceeding was quickly popping up. Soon, Superior Courts were showing up all over Santa Ana, using whatever space was available, either by purchase or rental. Oddly enough, a common place for these makeshift courtrooms was local churches, because of their similar layouts. At the time, clients would walk in to see their judge at the pulpit and a jury of their peers in the choir box (and if you forgive the joke) singing out the praises of justice. Judge William Murray recalled that on his first day as Superior Court Judge, he was assigned to the upstairs of a converted church: “I got to the bench and the bailiff called out, ‘the church is now in session’.”

  Judge William S. Lee also recalled interesting experiences in the downtown church that was his courtroom. “My courtroom was upstairs and well liked by some of the lawyers. There was a fire escape just outside the window and if a case didn’t go well, they could use it to get away from their clients.”

  Some people did not agree with holding court sessions in places like churches, so Justice Robert Gardner recalls: “We’d go looking for a place to try a case, if we were ready and there wasn’t a courtroom available. We tried cases in the American Legion Hall, the Santa Ana City Hall, even on the lawn.”

  Nineteen-Hundred-Sixty-Two was the start of an era of new ideas brought forth by strong leaders. Robert W. Fraser, then current OCBA President, inspired by the presidents that preceded him, wrote about issues that he believed should be fought for and completed, no matter how far they were to being achieved. Included in those issues, printed in the May 1963 Bulletin (the name of our magazine in that era), were: “affirmative and aggressive positions by the association on judicial appointments and elections, client’s security fund to protect against occasional defalcation; adjustment of fee disputes and active supervision of ethics, an active administration of justice committee, maintain vigilance on ambulance chasing, capping and solicitation, and to get the new Courthouse.”

  Perhaps with the same blood of the great leaders at that time, Fraiser’s final words as president spoke of passion and equality. “Work from the heart, not the pocket book.”

  Martin Luther King Jr. gave us his “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C.

November 22, 1963

  When asked the question, 82 members and guests remember that they were in the Revere House in Tustin at 12:10 p.m., when they heard the announcement, by President Tiday, that the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. All in attendance stood and observed silent prayer and remorse in memory of the late President.

  In front of 15,000 people on June 20, 1964, The University of California, Irvine (UCI) was officially opened, thanks to a 1,000-acre donation from the Irvine Company in 1960. President Lyndon Johnson, the keynote speaker spoke about why California was number one in the nation in various fields. He credited California’s success to the leaders of the state and their visions. He concluded by discussing peace in society, saying that peace rested upon our education system. He stressed the importance of all people, no matter race or religion, having the opportunity to an equal education.

  UCI opened its doors to a student body of 1,319, who selected on “The Anteaters” as a nickname, inspired by the Johnny Hart cartoon strip “B.C.”

  The Beatles arrived at Kennedy Airport to 5,000 screaming fans. The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” became the first national No. 1 hit out of Orange County.

The First American Combat Troops Arrived in Vietnam

  By 1965, the Superior Court Judges numbered 16. One of those 16, Presiding Judge Raymond Thomson introduced his “Suggestions for Uniform Formality of Courts and Courtroom Etiquette.” One specific section was directed toward the conduct of attorneys while inside the courtroom. For example, “Attorneys must stand and remain standing anytime they wish to address the court. Furthermore, while addressing the jury, attorneys may not crowd the jury box, speak in a loud or abrasive voice, or otherwise act in an undignified manner. A trial lawyer may not interrupt the court or opposing counsel at anytime, unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the rights of their client. Counsel must remain seated at their table and practice restraint while the opposition is speaking. Counsel may, also, not make an effort to distract the court or jury’s attention away from anyone speaking to them by speaking aside, getting up, or letting their feelings overwhelm them. After careful consideration, when the decision is finally announced to, or by, the court, counsel must gracefully accept the decision and not try to add further arguments or comments.”

  There was also a section directed toward the general conduct of anyone who wished to enter the courtroom. “Attorneys and officers must always wear ‘conservative business suits, with coat and tie.’ Anyone else within the courtroom must be in ‘dress-up’ attire; and before entering; all persons must remove hats, coats, cigars, or whatever, not after. And, no person should in the courtroom, while the Court is in session, smoke, chew gum or tobacco, eat candy or other confections, read newspaper or magazines, knit, attend crying children, or converse or indulge in any other similar conduct.”

  That summer, a routine traffic stop in South Central L.A. ended up starting another great tragedy. On August 11, 1965, the Watts Riots started its 6 day long destruction that killed 35 and left 4,000 arrested.

  In December 1965, the Political Science Department of California State College at Fullerton constructed and mailed a survey to 960 Orange County lawyers in order to create an accurate picture of our county. Sadly, only 330 replied but 86% of those were OCBA members. Here are the results of that survey: the median age of Orange County attorneys was 35 years to 40 years with 85% under 50 years. Ninety percent of the attorneys were married. Thirty-seven percent of the attorneys had lived in the county 5 years or less, and 66% had been here ten years or less. Sixty-six percent of the sample graduated from California law schools and almost 50% had practiced law between 5 and 15 years.

  With respect to firm size, 40% had 1 or 2 attorneys in their office, 33% had 3 to 5 and 25% had more than 5. One-half of the attorneys were engaged in general practice while 15% specialized in trial work, 10% in criminal cases, 15% in personal injury, 8% in commercial and business fields, and 8% in real estate. The median income was $10,000 to $15,000, with 30% having an income between $20,000 and $35,000 and 15% having an income over $35,000.

  By 1966, the county had grown even more, and so, two attempts to pass bonds, to help build a new courthouse, were made. However, the third attempt granted them 22.2 million dollars toward a new Superior courthouse that broke ground on September 15 in front of 150 witnesses.

  In 1967, Orange County became the 2nd largest county in the state. So, it was no wonder that it was the same year that the Angels came to Anaheim and the Anaheim Convention center opened. Sadly, though, Walt Disney passed away.

  The county’s population had surpassed 1.4 million and court calendars were overloaded. Superior Court filings in the 1967-1968 fiscal year reached over 27,000, with filings at a level of 1,000 per judge.

  Due to the overcrowding in current courthouses, early in 1968, new Municipal courthouses started to open. In February 1968, the new West Court opened in Westminster. The new North Court opened in January 1970, and later in March, South Court opened in Laguna Niguel. Harbor Court moved to Jamboree Road in Newport Beach in 1972.

  With all these new courthouses jumping up, it is only natural that a few "old houses” had to come down. Before the “Old” Courthouse closed its doors on December 13, 1968, it heard its last case. Frank Ortega was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail on burglary charges. When the gavel came down, one couldn’t help but think back 70 years, to when Judge J.W. Ballard presided in Department One. Since that time, 280,000 people were given a fair trial, 11,000 folks became citizens and many others were joined in matrimony. This “house” also saw screen stars like Tom Mix, Douglas Fairbanks, William Russel, and Robert Young in her halls and before her courts.

  The courthouse was the “grand dame of county structures, the focal point of law and order, and the symbol of a slower-paced, more forgiving past.”

Ronald Reagan was Sworn in as Governor in 1967 — The Year of “The Summer of Love”

  On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader and the prime mover of the Montgomery Bus boycott (1956), was standing outside his hotel room with Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy, when a shot rang out…

  When James F. Penny took office as president of the OCBA in 1969, the year of Neil Armstrong and the moon landing, our membership had reached 1,028 in a county of 1,200,000. It seemed we had not only survived the ’60s, but had grown bigger and stronger.

The More We Change, the More We Stay the Same…

  The Sixties were a critical time in our history. It was a time of war, a time of hate and a time of peace. The world was a maelstrom spinning around in various directions. There seemed to be chaos taking place all over the world. However, this chaos sparked an interest in people to become “organized.” Organizations started developing across the country, to express the ideals and principles that they believed this country was founded on. More and more, people began to stand up and take progressive action toward whatever they believed to be right and wrong. Whether it was the Civil Rights Movement or Vietnam, folks were speaking out. In Orange County, the Sixties were a time of growth, development and success.

  I would like to leave you with a few words from Past President James F. Penny that are not only inspiring but also, I feel, really grab the feeling of this incredible time in my life.

  “The attorneys I have known for the past 40 years have enjoyed the practice of law, enjoyed the fellowship with other attorneys and enjoyed serving their clients. Let us all protect our character and reputation with the Shield of Honesty and Truth.”  


Danni Murphy is a senior attorney with the Orange County Public Defender.