One-hundred years ago, ten attorneys met at the newly-dedicated Court House and the OCBA was formed. As we saw, last month, in this column, that day would become our heritage.
During the first decade of the Twentieth Century, a growing county and a small legal community struggled to learn how to balance the escalating and competing interests of expanding enterprise, new business, aggressive land development, and a growing population.
By 1910, the population of the County had grown to about 35,000, with 60% of the residents living within the cities of Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach. Although the County was still primarily agrarian, urbanization was expanding and with it, more amenities and services for Orange County citizens. While, in New York City, architect Cass Gilbert was constructing the Woolworth Building (the tallest building in the world at the time at 792 feet high with 55 floors of offices), the larger cities of Orange County were thrilled just to be able to boast of electric lights, telephones, a paved street or two, and public education.
Fullerton Union High School provided its students with free rides to school in four horse drawn “buses,” which then gave way in 1911 to three automotive buses that were often driven by the students themselves to save money. Power poles brought electricity to Laguna Beach … although the only access into town was by way of Laguna Canyon. Pacific Coast Highway wasn’t opened until 1926. Santa Ana boasted of French’s Opera House, later remodeled and renamed The Grand Opera House, where patrons could partake of first-class entertainment for 25 cents. Could they have seen a performance of Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band just written in 1911, or heard a medley of the vaudeville songs from Billboard Magazine’s very first song-popularity chart in 1913?
The second decade of the Century brought rapid changes to the County and to the practice of law. About 26 attorneys were practicing in 1915, and all maintained offices in Santa Ana. In those days, graduates of U.S.C., Stanford, Hastings, and Cal. Berkeley were admitted to the Bar on motion of the Dean, without having to take any bar exam. (Life must have been good.)
After the Pacific Electric Railway was built in Los Angeles in 1901, Henry Huntington brought the “Big Red Cars” to Orange County. By 1910, many of the OCBA’s members became the original inter-county “commuters” by taking the early morning streetcar to Los Angeles to attend court in the city, returning to Santa Ana in the afternoon. One of the “Big Red Car Brigade” was leading civil lawyer, Horace C. Head, who practiced law in Orange County for over 50 years and was President of the OCBA continuously from 1918 to 1925. While riding the Big Red Car to and from L.A., he likely would have read in the newspapers about a bitter credentials fight in Chicago at the Convention between President William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, which included 72 delegate challenges… and of course, he would have read about World War I.
The Bar was active in keeping up the standards of the honorable practice of the profession. One of its charges was to see that violations of the codes of ethics relating to the practice of law were brought to the attention of the courts. In 1909, the OCBA was asked by the San Francisco Bar Association to support the formation of the California State Bar Association… but it took our lawyers until 1915 to set up a committee to study the issues. A more pressing issue, locally, was the ever-growing number of court cases in Department One in Santa Ana.
Presiding Judge Z.B. West enlisted members of the Bar to ask the Governor to appoint a second judge, because Judge West felt that the condition of the calendar was such that he could not devote the time to each case as it deserved. Bar meeting “Minutes” reflect that in 1913 the Association voted to endorse R.Y. Williams for the job and to send a copy of the official “Minutes” to the Governor. Later that year, a second courtroom was added by way of legislation and William H. Thomas was appointed by Governor Hiram Johnson. Thomas was elected in 1914 and when appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1918, was succeeded by R.Y. Williams, the choice of the OCBA.
Judge Z.B. West was well respected with a reputation for honesty and fearless dealings. His own respect of the attorneys who appeared in his courtroom and for the clients they served and his sense of responsibility toward deciding questions of law and of fact were well acknowledged. He was the father of several children, including one future extremely important OCBA member: Franklin G. West.
The More We Change, the More We Stay the Same
Last month, Judge Jack Ryan was featured in and on the Orange County Lawyer’s magazine cover as the recipient of the OCBA’s most important and prestigious award of recognition — “The Franklin G. West Award.” Few members of our legal community have been so highly honored, but those who have, are individuals of great character and dedication to our profession and to the community.
Like father, like son… The well-respected Judge Z.B. West obviously passed to his son, Franklin G. West, the attributes that were and are still of great importance and value in the practice of law and in the distribution of justice to this day.
Franklin G. West, born in 1896 in the family household at 1210 North Ross Street, was educated in Santa Ana schools, before entering Stanford University Law School in 1915. His studies were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army during World War I, but he returned to Stanford where he earned his J.D. Degree (then called an LL.B.) in 1923. After a brief practice in Los Angeles with his brother, Z.B. (Bert) West, he returned to Orange County and eventually followed in his father’s footstep to be elected to the Superior Court Bench in 1938, where he served until retiring in 1965. He has been considered to be Orange County’s “greatest” judge and as fine a legal scholar as this County has ever known. Always active and involved in community affairs, he was known to be a warm, friendly and delightful person with a fine sense of humor. He was appreciated as a sparkling and witty speaker.
For 100 years, members of the OCBA have practiced law in Orange County, with many ascending to the Bench. As was done during the first and second decades of the Bar’s existence, the members today work diligently to improve the practice of the profession, to ensure access to justice for all people and to be respected leaders in the community as a whole. The Bar continues to be involved in judicial candidate recommendations. The members are still active in keeping and raising the standards of ethical and honorable representation of our clients, and in representing this County at the local and State Bar level. Our members on the Bench — like Judge Franklin West and like Judge Jack Ryan — strive to treat all persons in their courtroom: attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, jurors… with dignity and respect.
New technology has spiraled us into a new world that most of us neither expected nor were prepared. The new productivity-enhancing devices are now deemed to be essential tools of the modern practice of law. But, some feel that what were supposed to be timesaving devices have, in fact, increased the pace at which we are expected to produce. We measure our lives in “nanoseconds” now, with “time” as the most desired commodity. However, our judges and lawyers still strive to regard each case and each client with the time, efforts and consideration each deserves.
Next month we’ll continue our trip back to the future. Just as antiques remind us of a cozier past, so do the reminiscences of our Bar “forefathers.” We learn what is right from that which survives and still shines, whether it be the antiques built and the craftsmen who built them at the turn of the Twentieth Century; or in the quality of the practice of law and the members of the Bar, who lived 100 years ago.
The facade shown on the cover of this issue with the directors of the OCBA Charitable Fund, was designed by architect J. Flood Walker of Santa Ana in 1914 as part of Central Grammar School. The building served from 1919 until the early 1960s as Orange’s first junior high school, and later served as the offices of the Orange Unified School District. A.B. Chapman, co-founder of the City of Orange, sold the property to the Orange School District in 1872, for $1.00.
The facade includes Lombardic Italian motifs, taken from the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul of Bologna, Italy, designed in the Fourth Century, A.D. The color scheme of red and tan was meant to contrast well with the green landscaping. Although most of the building was demolished in 1999, the facade was preserved, for its historical value and beauty… and now serves as the entrance to the Chapman University School of Law.
Danni Murphy is a senior attorney with the Orange County Public Defender.