The First 70 Years

Welcome to all attending the California State Bar Convention and the Conference of Delegates! We hope everyone at the Convention will take some time to enjoy the surf, sand and sun along with the many attractions and fabulous restaurants that we have here in Orange County. It is our great pleasure to be the "Host Bar" especially in this very important year for the Orange County Bar Association.

  This is our Centennial Celebration and celebrating we are! The 6,500 members of OCBA are celebrating our 100 years of rich history as a Bar, and a century of being the leaders in the social, political and community affairs in Orange County.

  A century ago, on November 22, 1901, ten attorneys met in Department One of the newly completed Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana. The Orange County Bar Association was formed.

  The county itself had only been formed in 1889, and the state was barely 50 years old. William McKinley was President. Momentous changes were rapidly taking place in Southern California. One most obvious was the convergence of the railroads, bringing thousands of settlers into the area and opening new markets for farmers. There was a growing concern for the development of social institutions and an acknowledgment of the needs of the community. The citizens were attempting to tame a county that had the soul of a wild colt.

  Santa Ana could barely boast of a paved street, electricity or a telephone at that time. Only three automobiles called the county home. Lawyers still wore guns into the courtroom. Jurors and attorneys alike enthusiastically took part in swearing, spitting, whittling, and other forms of less then genteel behavior. Common spittoons present in the courtroom were emptied every Friday, whether they needed it or not.

  The new Courthouse was made of red sandstone, and contained a tall cupola, high above the roof. Department One, the only Superior Courtroom at the time, was very impressive, with oak desks and chairs and a huge central skylight surrounded by light fixtures. The courthouse was best described as "modified Richardson Romanesque." At its dedication in September 1901, the citizens in the community stood back and looked with pride at this great building as proof that Orange County had come of age!

  We are very honored that in recognition of the Centennial Celebrations of the Orange County Bar Association and the (now) "Old" Orange County Courthouse, the California State Supreme Court will hear oral argument at the Old Courthouse on Tuesday, October 4th, 2001. OCBA is extremely pleased to host an evening reception that will cap this historic event. We look forward to this momentous occasion. This is the first time in history that the Court will convene in Orange County. And, it will convene in Department One, the very place where our Bar was founded.

  As the Bar embarks on a journey into the new millennium, we are also taking a walk "back to the future." Each issue of the Orange County Lawyer magazine and its cover this year is dedicated to a successive decade in the Bar's history. Going back to our roots and working forward has been a real "blast from the past." Now, in September, the cover highlights the 1970s.

  We see a photo from one of the most beautiful spots in Orange County… Dana Point Harbor. The Army Corps of Engineers built this 212-acre marina in 1971. It was built as a small boat harbor and has kept its small town character. Not everyone shared the same feelings over the decision to build the harbor. As one who caught a wave or two, I can tell you that when the plans were announced 30 years ago, board surfers cried, and boat owners cheered.

  Pictured at the harbor are the recipients of the 2001 Volunteer Awards given by the Public Law Center, whom the legal community salutes. PLC is the public interest firm of the Orange County Bar Association. It was during the latter years of the 1970s that members of the Bar and of the Bench dreamt of and then conceptualized this idea for a law firm that would provide pro bono legal services by placing individual clients with volunteer attorneys in the private bar. PLC has devoted 20 years to achieving the goal of equal justice under the law for Orange County's poor and under-represented.

  The 1970s were a time of change and growth for the county and for OCBA. By 1975, our association had 1800 members. The Superior Courts had been moved to a brand new eleven-story courthouse, and the small "old" courthouse was being used only for county offices. This occurred because, as the second largest county in the state, the number of Superior Court judges had risen to 16 in 1965. The question of where these judges were going to have their proceedings was not easily answered. Superior Courts were showing up all over Santa Ana, using whatever space was available.

  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 S. Lee 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."

  Finally, after two attempts to pass bonds, a third attempt granted 22.2 million dollars toward a new Superior Courthouse that broke ground September 15, 1966.

  The "Old" Courthouse closed its doors on December 13, 1968. When the gavel came down for the last time, one couldn't help but think back 70 years to when Judge J.W. Ballard presided in Department One. 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."

  In 1977, the Old Courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but in 1979, the Board of Supervisors directed discontinuance of occupancy following seismic survey. Years later, when it was reopened after restoration in 1987, its red sandstone walls were as bright as the day they were cemented in.

  The Old Courthouse stands today as a linkage between the past and present, not only for the legal community, but for Orange County to look back to 100 years of progress and forward to 100 more. We are now very proud to have the California State Supreme Court honor us with their presence in October at this symbol of justice.

  By the time Orange County hosted the 1973 State Bar Convention held at the Disneyland Hotel, OCBA had grown to 1,200 active members. We already had a very long history of involvement, both at the State Bar level and at the Conference of Delegates. Early OCBA Minutes reflect that in 1909, OCBA was asked by the San Francisco Bar Association to support the formation of the California State Bar Association. However, being the laid back county that we were, it took our lawyers until 1915 to even set up a committee to study the issues.

  In October of 1928, OCBA sent a handful of delegates to Pasadena to the first State Bar Convention, which was held at the Hotel Huntington. According to the State Bar News, Vol. I, dated Thursday, October the 11th and Friday, October 12th, 1928, one could stay at the Crown Hotel on East Colorado for rates of $3.00 to $5.00, per day "with bath," or the Hotel Pasadena for as low as $1.50 "without bath." State Bar President Joseph J. Webb of San Francisco urged attendance: "All affairs are strictly informal and the ladies do not have to worry over the ?nothing to wear problem.' So pile your family into the car or catch the night train. You can't afford to miss the first state bar convention."

  By 1934, OCBA was "entitled" to send three delegates to the September "Conference of Bar Associations" at the State Bar Convention in Pasadena. Years later, all delegates and alternates to the 1943 "Conference of State Bar Delegates" received a letter dated May 27, 1943 from the Chairman of the Conference, A.G. Bailey, indicating that a two-day "Convention" would be held in San Francisco, with the Conference on September 15th and the Annual Meeting of the State Bar on September 16th.

  Because of the nation's involvement in World War II, Chairman Bailey relayed that the Executive Committee of the Conference "has reserved the right to present to the Conference only such resolutions as it will be possible to consider on the one day, and which will aid in the war effort and the improvement of justice under war conditions."

  In 1960, during the State Bar Convention, after witnessing the first Nixon-Kennedy debate at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, then OCBA President Mark Soden, had this to say about the 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?"

  OCBA 1971 President, Arthur Nisson, wrote in his October President's Report: "Ours was one of the best working delegations at the recent State Bar Convention of Delegates (in San Diego). We had all nineteen seats filled with delegates and their alternates." Our delegation continued to grow and by 1979, we sent 68 delegates and alternates to the Convention at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.

  Today at the Conference, we can be seen, as always, sitting at our traditional Orange-covered tables. Disneyland is just a few yards away from the delegation floor. It is safe to say that Orange County would never have been what it is today without The Magic Kingdom. It is hard to believe that park is almost half a century old. Walt Disney's dream of a land where families could enjoy his creations became a reality in 1955. The magnitude of Disneyland's reach across the world and the interest in Mickey Mouse, himself, put OC on every map. Originally, Walt Disney envisioned that his "magical little theme park" would be located on eight acres near his Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. But, his dream no longer fit the site, so in early 1954 he purchased a 180-acre tract of orange trees in Anaheim. The rest is history… a history that is intricately intertwined with the legal community and the citizens of this county.

  It is fitting to leave with a quote from Hubert Morrow, President of the Los Angeles Bar Association as published in the State Bar News on Friday, October 12th, 1928, during the first State Bar Convention. "The tenor of my thought will be a plea for that breadth of spirit, for that patience and toleration, for a willingness to work for the common good and for the establishing of an ideal and a spirit at the bar, which will lift us above selfishness, sordidness and personalities; which will for all time convince the public that as an institution, and as individuals, we stand first for the public good, next for our profession and lastly for ourselves."

  Once again, from all the members of the Orange County legal community… welcome to Orange County. ENJOY.

Orange County's growth in the 1970s reflected the "Green Movement" of the times. The newly organized Orange County Harbors, Beaches and Parks District acquired large tracts of land for wilderness preservation and recreation.

  An important element of this renewed emphasis on natural resources was the dedication of the Dana Point Marina on July 31, 1971.

  The cover of this month's Orange County Lawyer shows the Public Law Center's honorees standing on the 200-foot bluffs overlooking Dana Point Marina.

  This photo was taken just yards from the Sampson Overview Gazebo on the Street of the Blue Lantern. This has been a favorite rest stop for travelers between Los Angeles and San Diego since the 1930s. It was dubbed the Sampson Overview during the 1970s, to honor longtime Orange County Harbor District Director Ken Sampson.

  The site was first described by William Henry Dana, who served aboard the square-rigged brig "Pilgrim" in the 1830s. In his classic book, "Two Years Before the Mast," he described this cove as "the only romantic spot on the coast."

  Today, a full-sized replica of the Pilgrim stands in the Harbor, maintained by the Orange County Marine Institute.

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