Grodin is a graduate from the University of California in Berkeley (1951) and from Yale University (1954). In addition, he has a PhD from the London School of Economics (1960).
Upon earning his law degree, he became a partner at the law firm of Brundage Neyhart Grodin & Beeson in 1955. He practiced law there until 1972, when he became a professor at the University of California-Hastings College of the Law. He entered public life in 1979 when then-Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District. He served in that position until 1982. when Brown appointed him to the California Supreme Court.
On the court, Grodin compiled a solid liberal record, voting mostly with Chief Justice Rose Bird. He was considered supportive of trial lawyers and defense attorneys, while seeming skeptical of law enforcement and business interests. He was opposed to the death penalty. This approach caused controversy, and Bird and Brown had become unpopular with a public which was frustrated with a rising crime wave.
In California, state judges are on the ballot for confirmation, with the option of confirming or removing the judge. In 1986, Bird had become highly controversial and unpopular, with politicians denouncing her in their campaigns, including Governor George Deukmejian. Opponents of Bird succeeded in linking Grodin and another justice, Cruz Reynoso, to her. The campaign against them cost $7 million and made the death penalty a central issue. Grodin was rejected by the voters by a 57% to 43% margin.
After leaving the court, Grodin returned to UC-Hastings, where he remains today. He has also authored several books.
- California State Constitution: A Reference Guide (Reference Guides to the State Constitutions of the United States) Greenwood Press (1993) ISBN 978-0-313-27228-8
- Collective Bargaining in Public Employment West Publishing (1993) ISBN 978-0-314-01862-5
- Public Sector Employment: Cases and Materials West Group West Group Publishing (2004) ISBN 978-0-314-26364-3
- In Pursuit of Justice: Reflections of a State Supreme Court Justice University of California Press (1989) ISBN 978-0-520-06654-0
- Silver Lake (High Sierra Hiking Guide, No 17) Wilderness Pr (1983) ISBN 978-0-89997-027-1
- Bio, Hastings College of the Law, accessed July 2015
- Hearn, Lorie (October 27, 1986) Grodin appeals to voters to examine his opinions. San Diego Union-Tribune
- Zahn, Paula (March 29, 1990) JUDGE JOSEPH GRODIN, OPPONENT OF DEATH PENALTY . CBS News Transcripts
- GELKO, BOB (November 5, 1986) New Era for High Court Following Defeat of Three Justices. Associated Press
Frank C. Newman
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California