Chief Justice Speech - November 6, 2002

Dedication of the
Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building
Remarks by Chief Justice Ronald M. George
Sacramento, California
November 6, 2002

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We gather today in honor of our esteemed and departed colleague, Justice Stanley Mosk. For the first time, the California Supreme Court this week convened in what is now the Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building. I am pleased that those present include the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District, Art Scotland, and several of his colleagues, who hold regular sessions in this magnificent courtroom.

Just a few moments ago, we unveiled a magnificent memorial to Justice Mosk - a great likeness, cast in bronze. And what an appropriate continuing reminder of Stanley Mosk it will be: It is larger than life; it is enduring, and it is forward-looking.

Stanley Mosk was a part of public life in California for much of the last century. He has especially been on our minds in the past two years. In December of 1999, he became the longest-serving justice ever to sit on the California Supreme Court, and we convened a special session of the court in San Francisco in his honor. After his death in June of 2001, he was eulogized throughout the state as a great jurist and a great human being. Just a few months ago, the Los Angeles Superior Court Courthouse was renamed for Justice Mosk. Even his title lives on, since his son Richard joined the Court of Appeal and became the second Justice Mosk.

Like so many others, Stanley Mosk came from elsewhere to California - in his case, from Illinois, armed with a legal education from the University of Chicago. He brought with him a keen intellect, a personable manner, and a sense of a brighter tomorrow. Although he came to California from elsewhere, like so many others he became a Californian. He believed that things could be better in California, and that he could help make them better.

And so it was that in his earliest decisions as a Superior Court judge, Stanley Mosk ruled for racial equality before the rest of the nation began moving forward. As Attorney General, Stanley Mosk moved beyond the traditional law enforcement concerns of the Department of Justice and established new sections focusing on constitutional rights and consumer protection. As a justice of the California Supreme Court, Stanley Mosk helped pioneer the doctrine of independent state constitutional grounds to provide greater protection of individual liberties in California.

On a personal level, Justice Mosk was an inspiring leader and a mentor to many. I feel fortunate to include myself in that group. I began my career in the Mosk Department of Justice, as did John Burton, our Senate President Pro Tem, who is the moving force behind this memorial today. John and I are among the many who were inspired into a lifetime of public service and commitment to the greater good because of an association with Stanley Mosk. By his example, he inspired many of us to believe that California was different — that things here could be just a bit better and even somewhat nobler - and that we had the opportunity and indeed the obligation to help further along the California dream.

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Today we celebrate Stanley Mosk's contributions to the State of California. John Burton and his colleagues in the Legislature have honored Justice Mosk by placing his name on one of the grandest and most glorious buildings in California's capital. In so many ways the library and courts building fits Stanley Mosk, and I find this to be an especially appropriate place for his memory to live on.

First of all, this building is a fitting memorial to Stanley Mosk because it houses a library. Stanley was a great and voracious reader. Quite frequently he would circulate to his colleagues articles from an astonishingly wide range of sources. He seemed to take special delight in passing along readings in which a learned author supported his position, especially if his colleagues had not had the wisdom to agree with him.

Stanley was also a powerful and prolific writer. In his record-setting service on the Supreme Court, he authored almost 1,700 opinions spanning 88 volumes of the California Official Reports. For most of his tenure he was the most productive member of the court, writing more opinions than any of his colleagues. He tackled some of the most difficult and contentious issues of his time. And he did so with a clarity of thought and a directness of expression that guided lawyers and judges throughout the state - and in many cases, throughout the nation.

Secondly, this building is a fitting memorial to Stanley Mosk because it is a home of the courts. Stanley loved being a judge. For 53 years of his life he wore the black robe of the judiciary - 16 years as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, and almost 37 years as a justice of the Supreme Court. He was especially proud when he established his place in history as the longest-serving member of the California Supreme Court. But we all recognize that Stanley Mosk's legacy as a jurist is even more notable for its exceptional quality than for its quantity.

Stanley wanted to go on being a judge and resisted retirement with all of his considerable energy and effort. As some of you know, he had finally and quite reluctantly come to the conclusion that it was time for him to retire. In fact, he had planned to mail his letter of retirement to the governor on the day he died. I feel certain Stanley died just a little happier knowing that the letter never made it to the mailbox.

Thirdly, this building is a fitting memorial to Stanley Mosk because of its colorful history. Stanley loved the "old California" feeling of the Library & Courts Building, which had its origins in the early 1900's when California was not far removed from the Gold Rush and the days of the wild West. The state had grown rapidly, and the Capitol building was filled to overflowing. Many state offices had been established in San Francisco, including those of the Supreme Court.

There was some doubt about just how firmly rooted in Sacramento the state capital was. Civic leaders thought they could cement Sacramento's status as the capital city by consolidating the state's presence here. So the city cleared and donated to the state the land on which to build this building and its companion state office building.

The first four floors of this building were to become the home of the State Library, then located in the Capitol. The top floor would boast a magnificent octagonal courtroom with a domed ceiling, surrounded by wood-panelled chambers for justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. But as the building neared completion, a problem developed. One of my predecessors, Chief Justice William H. Waste, declared that the Supreme Court would refuse to occupy the "attic" of this building. So the courtroom was replicated in all of its architectural glory, save the domed ceiling, in this space on the first floor.

Still, San Francisco's leaders were not to be out-maneuvered. They arranged to donate land for the construction of a new state office building in San Francisco's Civic Center, just across from City Hall. It too would contain a magnificent courtroom and chambers for the Supreme Court. As it happens, that building was completed in 1923 and has been the principal chambers for the California Supreme Court ever since.

The structure in which we are gathered today was completed five years later, in 1928. It has provided a splendid and historically significant home for the State Library, and a presence in the state capital for the Supreme Court. For two calendar sessions each year, we travel to Sacramento to hear arguments in this wood-panelled courtroom that Justice Mosk found so beautiful.

Finally, this building is a fitting memorial to Stanley Mosk because it sits in the shadow of the State Capitol. Stanley was fascinated by government and politics, and he was possessed of considerable political acumen. He had served as an important advisor to Governor Olson, and sought and achieved high political office himself when he was elected to serve as California's Attorney General. And though his direct involvement in the political world ended when he joined the court, his interest did not. Nor did his keen political insights diminish.

I offer you - as one example - Stanley's actions in the mid-80's, when the California Supreme Court found itself caught in a political firestorm. Stanley Mosk was among the justices up for retention that year. As his colleagues were forming campaign committees and raising money and preparing television commercials, Stanley announced that he would do no such thing. Instead, he declared that his expenditures would be limited to the 22?cent stamp then required to mail his election papers to Sacramento - and that would be only if he chose to seek another term on the court, which he had not yet decided to do.

That brilliant non-campaign threw any potential foes off balance and kept him out of the campaign cross-fire. And Stanley was delighted when friends around the state began sending him 22-cent stamps, encouraging him to continue on the court.

There is a postscript to this story, by the way. Like the good politician he was, he wanted to keep his options open as long as possible. Stanley waited until the last possible moment to reveal whether he would seek retention for another term. He waited so long that when he finally decided to run, he feared his paperwork might not make it to Sacramento on time. So the populist plan for a 22?cent campaign went by the wayside. Stanley's papers were delivered by overnight mail at a cost of 10 dollars and 25 cents.

Now all those who come to this historic home of the library and courts, standing in the shadow of the State Capitol, will be reminded of the great contributions made by our highly esteemed and much-loved colleague, Justice Stanley Mosk. This place fits Stanley Mosk, as surely as the inscription underneath its great pediment, which reads, as if written as his epitaph: "Into the highlands of the mind, let me go."

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Several speakers will comment today on the dedication of the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building. It is first my pleasure to introduce Senate President Pro Tem John Burton.

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Thank you very much, Senator Burton. It is now my pleasure to introduce Assembly Member Ellen Corbett, Chair of the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary.

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Thank you very much, Assembly Member Corbett.

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It is now my pleasure to introduce Mrs. Kaygey Kash Mosk, Justice Mosk's wife.

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Thank you very much, Mrs. Mosk. It is now my pleasure to introduce Ms. Jean McEvoy, President of the Women Lawyers of Sacramento, who will speak on behalf of the Sacramento Bar.

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Thank you, Ms. McEvoy. It is now my pleasure to introduce the son of Justice Stanley Mosk, the Honorable Richard Mosk, Justice of the Second Appellate District, Division 5.

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Thank you, Justice Mosk. On behalf of the court, I want to express our appreciation to all those who made this dedication of the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building possible and to those who contributed their remarks this afternoon, as well as to Lisa Reinertson, the artist who created the magnificent memorial to Justice Mosk that now stands outside this building.

In recognition of the historic nature of this occasion, and in accordance with our custom, it is ordered that the proceedings at this special session be spread in full upon the minutes of the Supreme Court and published in the Official Reports of the opinions of this court, and that copies of these proceedings be sent to Justice Mosk's family.

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