4th District, Division One History

History of the Court of Appeal Fourth Appellate District, Division One
Originally Written by Former Presiding Justice Gerald Brown1

California's judicial system started in 1849 with its Supreme Court taking all appeals from the superior courts. By the turn of the century the increase in population and court cases placed a burden on the Supreme Court. The intermediate appellate court provided the answer. Three districts were created in 1904, the First in San Francisco, the Second in Los Angeles and the Third in Sacramento. Lawyers from all over Southern California went to Los Angeles to argue their cases.

In the latter 1920's, the seeds were planted for the Fourth District. Lawyers had become tired of long trips to Los Angeles. Through the efforts of three state senators from San Diego, Fresno and San Bernardino, the Fourth District was born in 1929 just before the Great Depression. It was a circuit court, sitting in Fresno January through April, in San Diego May through August, and in San Bernardino September through December. It is apparent the senators were well aware of weather, in providing for the summer months to be in San Diego. It would be the only pure circuit-riding intermediate appellate court in California. It held its first session in San Bernardino in October 1929.

The new district included the counties of Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial. William A. Sloane of San Diego became the first Presiding Justice. He had previously served as an Associate Justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Two, in Los Angeles (1919-1920) and as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court (1920-1923). Sloane Canyon Road, east of Singing Hills Country Club, is named after him. Associate Justices Charles R. Barnard of Fresno and Emerson J. Marks of Santa Ana completed the panel of three justicesnone of whom applied for the positions but were persuaded by Governor Young to take them "as a means of rendering a public service." In May 1930 after the death of Presiding Justice Sloane, William P. Cary became Presiding Justice for the balance of the year, followed by Presiding Justice Barnard who held the title over twenty-seven years. Lacy D. Jennings of San Diego joined the court in 1931 and was replaced by Lloyd E. Griffin of San Diego in 1938. Ten years later Stanley Mussell of San Bernardino replaced Justice Marks. Another decade passed and Justice Griffin became Presiding Justice and Arthur C. Shepard of Fresno became Associate Justice. Martin J. Coughlin of San Bernardino joined the court in 1960, replacing Justice Mussell.

The territory of the Fourth District shrank in 1961. A new Fifth District sitting in Fresno siphoned off the Central Valley counties, leaving the six counties of Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial for the Fourth District. San Diego became its headquarters, and the court went every other month for two-day sessions in San Bernardino. Upon Justice Shepard's retirement, Gerald Brown of Riverside was appointed to the court in 1963 and became Presiding Justice in 1965 during the ceremony when Vincent A. Whelan of San Diego joined the court. Coughlin, Whelan and Brown were the last justices to hear cases for the whole district.

Division Two of the Fourth District was created in 1965, with headquarters in San Bernardino, now in Riverside. A panel of three justices began handling matters in early 1966. That same year California voters approved an amendment reorganizing the judicial section of the constitution. The Fourth District Court of Appeal became the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District. The media and public have mostly ignored the change in name. Like the common law writs which rule from their graves, the title "Fourth District Court of Appeal" prevails.

By oral agreement the justices in the district, Division One in San Diego handled all court matters originating in Imperial and San Diego Counties. Division Two took filings from Inyo, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Cases from Orange County were divided between the divisions with a view of equalizing the load. This arrangement lasted until 1982 when the new Division Three in Santa Ana assumed jurisdiction of all cases from Orange County.

Over the years as filings increased, new positions in Division One were created. As of 2001, there are ten judgeships.

Justices of the Court of Appeal as they relate to San Diego County

William A. Sloane, P.J. 1929-1930

Charles D. Barnard, J. 1929-1930, P.J. 1931-1958

Emerson J. Marks, J. 1929-1948

William P. Cary, P.J. 1930

Lacy D. Jennings, J. 1931-1938

Lloyd E. Griffin, J. 1938-1958, P.J. 1958-1965

Stanley Mussell, J. 1948-1960

Arthur C. Shepard, J. 1958-1963

Martin J. Coughlin, J. 1960-1971

Gerald Brown, J. 1963-1965, P.J. 1965-1985

Vincent A. Whelan, J. 1965-1975

Richard B. Ault, J, 1970-1977

Gordon Cologne, J. 1972-1984

Robert O. Staniforth, J. 1976-1986

Howard B. Wiener, J. 1978-1993

Don R. Work, J. 1980-2001

Edward T. Butler, J. 1982-1988

Gerald J. Lewis, J. 1984-1987

Daniel J. Kremer, P.J. 1985-2003

William L. Todd, Jr., J. 1986-1994

Patricia D. Benke, J. 1987-

Richard D. Huffman, J. 1988-

Charles W. Froehlich, Jr., J. 1988-1995

Gilbert Nares, J. 1988-2019

Judith Lynette Haller, J. 1994-

Alex C. McDonald, J. 1995-2016

James A. McIntyre, J. 1996-2016

Terry B. O'Rourke, J. 1998-

Judith D. McConnell, J. 2001-2003, P.J. 2003-

Cynthia G. Aaron, J. 2003-

Joan K. Irion, J. 2003-

William S. Dato, J. 2017-

Patricia Guerrero, J. 2017-

Richard B. Ault took a new position in 1970. Gordon Cologne was appointed in 1972. Robert O. Staniforth arrived in 1976 and Howard B. Wiener in 1978. Don R. Work of El Centro came in 1980, Edward T. Butler in 1982 and Gerald J. Lewis in 1984. Daniel J. Kremer filled the Presiding Justice seat in 1985. William L. Todd, Jr. took the appellate bench in 1986, followed by Patricia D. Benke in 1987. Richard D. Huffman, Charles W. Froehlich, Jr. and Gilbert Nares all took the oath of office the same day in 1988. Judith Lynette Haller was appointed in 1994 and Alex E. McDonald in 1995, James Alden McIntyre in 1996, Terry B. O'Rourke in 1998, Judith D. McConnell in 2001, and Cynthia G. Aaron in 2003, Joan K. Irion in 2003, William S. Dato in 2017 and Patricia Guerrero in 2017. Following the retirement of Presiding Justice Kremer, Justice McConnell filled the Presiding Justice seat. Thirty-three justices have held positions on the Court of Appeal as it pertains to San Diego.

On March 11, 2003, Acting Presiding Justice Benke with Associate Justices Haller and McConnell presided over the first all-female appellate justice panel in State history. In September 2003, Division One became the first court of appeal in the state to be composed of an equal number of male and female justices.

An excellent staff is the wish of every court. The Fourth District has been well blessed. The first clerk, M.C. Van Allen, rode circuit with the justices, packed and unpacked the files, books and paraphernalia, and sometimes arranged housing for the justices. E. J. Verdeckberg continued the responsibility until 1962, when George J. Kobelin took over. During Kobelin's tenure the Second Division of the Court was created, but the clerk remained, and is, Clerk for the entire district.

In 1968 John R. McDowell, a deputy clerk in Division Two, became Clerk until his retirement in 1974 when Ervin J. Tuszynski of Division One took the position. Robert L. Ford of Division Two replaced him in 1978, followed in 1982 by Keenan G. Casady and Stephen M. Kelly of Division One in 1988. In 2013, the present Clerk, Kevin J. Lane, of Division One, began his tenure transitioning the courts from paper records to electronic.

Research attorneys, or law clerks as they are called in other jurisdictions, came to the Fourth District in 1959. They usually stayed about a year, in the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., tradition. Each justice had one. The presiding justice's attorney also worked on writs. In the 1970's, a central staff of attorneys and a writs attorney were added in San Diego to assist the court. And in the early 1980's, because of the performance and persuasion of Division One, each justice on the appellate bench received a second research attorney. In January 2003, with a division of ten justices, there are approximately thirty-two attorneys, twelve on central staff. Other important personnel include the fourteen judicial assistants, and eleven members of the clerk's office. The Court is also staffed by an administrative support team including security, a librarian, computer technicians and specialists in budget, facilities and human resources.

The legal staff of the Court is now permanent. But there is still a flow of fresh ideas, which comes in part from law students. Three times a year, every four months, the court has four to eight judicial externs, mostly from the University of San Diego, California Western, and Thomas Jefferson schools of law, to help the justices with their work. This is salutary. Justice Holmes would approve.

The Court has had six locations in San Diego. In May 1930, its very first session was held in Department 4 of the Superior Court Building. It then established itself that year at the Bank of Italy Building (Spreckels Building) at the southwest corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Court settled in at the Electric Building at 861 Sixth Avenue. From 1950 to 1963, the Court was located at 620 Ash Street. In 1963, it moved to the State Building, 1350 Front Street, and twenty-five years later when it ran out of space, it moved to its present quarters in Symphony Towers, 750 "B" Street.

The goal of the Court is to continue its service to the public to the best of its ability, as a servant of the people.

WBK/rev: 09/11/2019


Gerald Brown (1915-2005), University of Southern California, Phi Beta Kappa, B.A. 1937. Yale Law School, LL.B. 1941. Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University, M.A. 1949. Admitted to California Bar 1942. With O'Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles 1941-1943. United States Army, Cavalry, 1943. Trial Lawyer, Santa Fe Railway Company, Los Angeles 1944-1947; Best Best & Krieger, Riverside 1949-1963. Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District 1963-1965; Presiding Justice, 1965-1985; Administrative Presiding Justice 1970-1985. Member of California Judicial Council 1971-1975, 1981-1985. University of San Diego, LL.D (Hon.) 1973.