Edward Jens Wallin

Edward WallinJuly 20, 1942-May 28, 2021
Judge, Orange County Superior Court, 1978-1982
Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, 4th District, Division 3, 1982-1999

Edward J. (Ed) Wallin had a “wonderful upbringing” in a small house in Minneapolis, where he lived in a small corner in the basement. He was the first member of his extended family to go to college, commuting to the University of Minnesota during his undergraduate years (B.A. 1974) and law school (J.D., cum laude, 1967). At the time Wallin decided to go to law school, he did not even know a lawyer.

Wallin accepted a legal position in the Orange County office of Kindel & Anderson, when he came out to interview during a very “cold winter.” He ended up working during his first three years at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, where he gained trial experience prosecuting mail fraud and obscenity cases. Wallin returned to Kindel & Anderson in 1970 as a “very experienced” trial lawyer and remained at the firm until 1978.

Judge Bruce Sumner suggested that Governor Jerry Brown appoint Wallin to the superior court because of his business background and strong interest in public service. (Wallin was inspired by the example set by Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey.)

In 1978, Wallin became the youngest superior court judge in the state. He served on the Orange County Superior Court for over four years, three years of which he served as a law-and-motion judge. He handled a spate of newsworthy cases, including Davidson v. City of Westminster (1982) 32 Cal.3d 197, where Wallin ruled (and the California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed) that police officers who were conducting a stakeout of a laundromat did not owe a duty of care to warn a patron when the suspected attacker entered the premises. “I ruled that the police did not have a duty to warn the woman,” Wallin said, “because it would be unfair to say our officers have to anticipate a crime so suddenly that they could rescue the citizen.”

In a nationally significant case, Wallin ruled that federal law preempts state law restrictions on due-on-sale clauses in mortgage contracts for federally regulated lenders. The Supreme Court of the United States later upheld Wallin’s decision. (Fidelity Fed. Sav. & Loan Assn. v. de la Cuesta (1982) 458 U.S. 141.) According to Wallin, “it’s nice to know I got one right.”

In 1982, Brown elevated Wallin to Orange County’s newly formed appellate court, where he served as an associate justice for over 16 years. Wallin described the court’s early days: “Everybody just worked like crazy, because nobody knew what we were doing; we were all new.”

Wallin is responsible for a significant First Amendment opinion exonerating publishers from a broad duty to investigate the safety of advertised products. “Such a tort would require publications to maintain huge staffs scrutinizing and testing each product offered. The enormous cost of such groups, along with skyrocketing insurance rates, would deter many magazines from accepting advertising, hastening their demise from lack of revenue.” (Walters v. Seventeen Magazine (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 1119 [magazine reader developed toxic shock after using advertised tampon product].)

Wallin authored the court’s opinion in Golden West Baseball Club v. City of Anaheim (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 11, at the time the most expensive civil litigation case in Orange County’s history, regarding disputed ownership over the parking lot for Anaheim Stadium, and conflicting promises to the Angels baseball club and the Los Angeles Rams football franchise.

In another baseball case, Wallin affirmed a summary judgment for a Little League organization in a lawsuit brought by the parents of an 11-year old boy who was hit by an errant pitch while batting during a game. The parents argued the League negligently failed to remove the “wild pitcher” from the game because he earlier had struck two other players. Wallin concluded such risks were inherent in the sport. “Accuracy in pitching, especially from a teenager, has never been a prerequisite to being allowed to pitch. . . . To so hold would be to alter the fundamental nature of the game and most certainly chill vigorous participation.” (Balthazor v. Little League Baseball, Inc. (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 47.)

In Steiner v. Superior Court (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1771, Wallin authored an opinion rejecting efforts by the Orange County District Attorney to unseat two elected county supervisors for lax fiscal oversight resulting in the county’s bankruptcy. Wallin expressed the court’s concern on the impact on the democratic process were public officials to be removed from office for mere “neglect” in office. “It would effectively make the district attorney a performance monitor of elected officials, and allow him to subject them to the expense and rigors of accusation and trial if he deemed their performance to fall below that of the ‘reasonable’ public official. In plain terms, he could try to oust them for getting a C minus on their report cards.” Presiding Justice David Sills called this Wallin’s “finest decision.”

Wallin believed “very strongly in the public’s right to know what is occurring in the court system.” He was disinclined to “pontificate” in his legal opinions about extraneous matters, and he prided himself on his lack of dissents. Instead, he tried to work with his colleagues on panel in reaching a collegial result, with a high level of writing quality. “The court had one product: its opinions. Nothing else mattered.”

In 1994, Wallin received the Franklin G. West award from the Orange County Bar Association for lifetime achievement.

In 1999, Wallin retired from the Court of Appeal and passed away in 2021.