Malcolm M. Lucas

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Malcolm Millar Lucas (born April 19, 1927 in Berkeley, California) was the 26th Chief Justice of California. He was appointed to the position after his predecessor, Rose Bird, was removed by the electorate in 1986 for reasons including her staunch opposition to capital punishment, which was reflected in her voting for reversal in all 61 death penalty appeals that came before the Court during her tenure.

Born in Berkeley, California, Lucas earned a B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1950 and an LL.B. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1953. He was in private practice in Long Beach, California from 1954 to 1967. He was a judge on the Superior Court, Los Angeles, California from 1967 to 1971.

On July 8, 1971, Lucas was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon to a new seat on the United States District Court for the Central District of California (based in Los Angeles) created by 84 Stat. 294. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 29, 1971, and received his commission the same day. Lucas served on that court until he was tapped to join the Supreme Court of California in 1984. He replaced Frank K. Richardson, former Governor Ronald Reagan's only remaining appointee on the Court.

In the November 1986 California state elections George Deukmejian was reelected Governor and the electorate ejected Chief Justice Bird and two other liberal justices from the state supreme court. Governor Deukmejian and Lucas had once practiced law together many years earlier in Long Beach. After Bird lost her retention election, Deukmejian announced on November 26, 1986 that he would be appointing then-Associate Justice Lucas, his old friend and former law partner, to the position of Chief Justice.[1] On February 19, 1987, Deukmejian then announced the appointment of three new conservative Associate Justices, David Eagleson, John Arguelles, and Marcus Kaufman, thereby creating the first conservative majority on the Court in several decades.[1]

In stark contrast to the interpretive tendencies of the Bird court, the decisions of the Lucas court tended to adhere to the textualist approach, interpreting the law in strict accordance with its written meaning and precedent. An effect of this tendency was that in matters of criminal law, the Lucas court's interpretation of the law favored the state government more than that of the Bird court.[1] The Lucas court also reversed several pro-plaintiff landmark decisions of the Bird court in the context of tort law and insurance law.[1]

After retiring from the Court, Lucas went back into private practice and became an arbitrator for JAMS in Los Angeles.


  1. ^ a b c d Braitman, Jacqueline R.; Uelmen, Gerald F. (2013). Justice Stanley Mosk: A Life at the Center of California Politics and Justice. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. pp. 224–226. ISBN 9781476600710. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 

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Legal offices
Preceded by
Frank K. Richardson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Succeeded by
John Arguelles
Preceded by
Rose Bird
Chief Justice of California
Succeeded by
Ronald M. George
Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Succeeded by
William J. Rea