Thursday, September 13, 2012

          Point of View: Marvin Baxter '66

          The esteemed associate justice of the California Supreme Court discusses his career, California’s deficit, and his abiding love of classic cars.

          Justice Marvin Baxter ’66 and his wife, Jane, have been among UC Hastings’ most distinguished friends for many years. Justice Baxter, who has served on the California Supreme Court since 1991, is a director emeritus of the law school and received its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in 1998. The Baxters were honored recently by anonymous family donors who made a gift to UC Hastings in the Baxters’ names. The gift was used to create a new Appellate Law Center, now the home of the school’s award-winning Moot Court teams.

          Q: What are some of your fondest memories of UC Hastings?

          A: I had three wonderful years at UC Hastings, which at the time had the premier law faculty in the nation. I had William Prosser for torts, Rollin Morris Perkins for criminal law, and Everett Fraser for property. They were members of the 65 Club, which was Dean Snodgrass’ vision to recruit eminent faculty who had reached mandatory retirement age at other law schools.

          Q: In 1983, Gov. George Deukmejian named you appointments secretary. What did that position entail?

          A: My responsibilities involved advising the governor on appointments to the executive and judicial branches of government. In the six years that I held that position, I assisted in the appointment of more than 700 judges. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because Gov. Deukmejian believed that the most important and lasting responsibility a governor has is the appointment of judges.

          Q: What qualities did you look for in candidates for the bench?

          A: Integrity, reputation, and industriousness. You also consider where the individual is from in terms of judicial philosophy—whether the person view the judicial role as strictly interpreting the law as opposed to creating the law. It is also important to know if there are any personal, moral, or religious beliefs that would preclude the candidate from carrying out the law.

          Q: What has been the most gratifying aspect of serving on the California Supreme Court?

          A: One constant has been having three outstanding chief justices: Malcolm Lucas, Ron George, and Tani Cantil-Sakauye. As important, I have had outstanding colleagues throughout this period. Historians will have their views as to how the court has changed philosophically over the years. But I do not see it in those terms. I see it as a wonderful opportunity to do fulfilling work.

          Q: What do California’s budget problems mean for the state judiciary?

          A: With California’s $16 billion deficit, the leaders of the Judicial Council are concerned about the impact that cuts will have on the state judiciary. It is not a good situation. You do not want to compromise the quality of individuals who are attracted to a judicial career because of cutbacks to our resources. Our sister branch leaders have to consider how these cuts will affect individuals as they make career decisions.

          Q: What do you do to relax?

          A: I have always loved old cars. I grew up in Fowler, near Fresno, where my dad had a Chevrolet garage. My brother and I used to work in the garage, helping the mechanics overhaul motors. By osmosis, we learned to overhaul motors, too.

          As kids, we had love affairs with all the new cars that came out. I remember when the Corvette was introduced in 1953. We begged my dad to get one for mom, but back then only celebrities drove them. My wife and I have a 1958 turquoise-and-white Corvette. We like going on Sunday drives, but we only take the Corvette out if the conditions are perfect.

          Q: Did you retain your skills as an auto mechanic?

          A: I could still overhaul an old car today, but I wouldn’t try it one a new one. They just have too many bells and whistles.

          [ADVICE CORNER]

          What advice would you give a young lawyer who aspires to become a judge?

          The most important advice I can give a lawyer with judicial ambitions is to conduct himself or herself in a way so as to establish an outstanding reputation, both in terms of practicing law and contributing to the community. Someone may have an outstanding record of courtroom victories but may be detested for the tactics used, for example. But if you are concerned about your reputation, you will also be concerned about your ability, your ethics, and how you treat opposing counsel, litigants, and the judges before whom you appear.

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Thursday, April 20, 2017

          Legalized: Aaron Herzberg ’95 is at the forefront of California’s budding cannabis industry.

          2L Jeremy Schwartz, President of UC Hastings Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy, interviews the divorce attorney turned marijuana real estate entrepreneur and dispensary owner.
          Tuesday, April 18, 2017

          UC Hastings Courtside: 3L Tom Lin Externs at the Supreme Court of California

          With the goal of becoming a first-generation attorney, Tom served as a judicial extern to the Hon. Goodwin H. Liu and Hon. Ming W. Chin, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of California.
          Monday, April 10, 2017

          Healing and Trust: Students Organize Public Hearing for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission

          The “rebellious” Community Group Advocacy and Social Justice Lawyering Group Clinic students strive to create dialogue around the current state of community-police relations and take steps toward building a safer community.
          Friday, April 07, 2017

          Judge Jed S. Rakoff to Keynote 136th UC Hastings Law Commencement

          Prominent legal thinker and scholar hailed as “a legal hero of our time” by Rolling Stone, and among “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune.
          Thursday, April 06, 2017

          Thinkers & Doers: March 2017

          The Californian who tried to fix Washington -- TRIAL TEAM IS #1 -- Clean Water Regulation Rollbacks -- Big Whistle-Blower Lawsuit Win -- “Defender” Documentary -- Boutique Suing Ivanka Trump -- The Endangered Antiquities Act -- and much more
          Go to News Archive