Malcolm Lucas

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Malcolm M. Lucas
26th Chief Justice of California
In office
Appointed by George Deukmejian
Preceded by Rose Bird
Succeeded by Ronald M. George
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
Appointed by George Deukmejian
Preceded by Frank K. Richardson
Succeeded by John Arguelles
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
In office
Appointed by Richard Nixon
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by William J. Rea
Personal details
Born (1927-04-19)April 19, 1927
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Died September 28, 2016(2016-09-28) (aged 89)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Donna J. Fisher (m. 1956)
Alma mater University of Southern California (B.A., LL.B.)

Malcolm Millar Lucas (April 19, 1927 – September 28, 2016) 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.[1] From 1954 to 1967, he was in private practice in Long Beach, California. From 1967 to 1971, he was a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In February 1970, Lucas was the trial judge in the prosecution of Charles Manson for the murder of actress Sharon Tate, which continued through January 1971.[2][3][4] In June 1970, Lucas had Manson removed from the courtroom due to his disruptive behavior.[5]

On July 8, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Lucas 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. In April 1975, Lucas sat as trial judge in the complex Equity Funding civil litigation, brought after a $3 billion fraud by executives at a life insurance company. 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.[6] In November 1986, Lucas was retained by the voters in the election.[7]

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 friend and former law partner, to the position of Chief Justice.[8] 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.[8] In September 1989, Chief Justice Lucas delivered the "State of the Judiciary" address to the State Bar of California annual meeting in San Diego, California.[9]

In contrast to the interpretive tendencies of the Bird court, the decisions of the Lucas court were pro-business, affirmed death penalty sentences imposed by the trial courts, and tended to adhere to the textualist approach, interpreting the law in strict accordance with its written meaning and precedent.[10][11] 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.[8][12] The Lucas court also reversed several pro-plaintiff landmark decisions of the Bird court in the context of tort law and insurance law.[8] In 1988, Lucas implemented a practice that the justices produce opinions within 90 days of holding oral arguments.[13] On October 1, 1995, he announced he would retire in May 1996 to spend more time with his family.[10]

After retiring from the Court, Lucas went back into private practice and became an arbitrator for JAMS in Los Angeles.[14]

Lucas died on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. He was 89.[15][16]

Personal life[edit]

On June 23, 1956, Lucas married Donna J. Fisher in Los Angeles.[17]


  1. ^ Egelko, Bob (September 29, 2016). "Malcolm Lucas, former California chief justice, dies at 89". San Francisco Gate. Retrieved May 26, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Manson Will Present Oral Arguments Today". Desert Sun (158). California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. 6 February 1970. p. 3. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Judge Denies Manson Motio". Desert Sun (159). California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. 7 February 1970. p. 1. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Defense Says Manson Used as a Scapegoat". Desert Sun (131). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 5 January 1971. p. 3. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Manson Removed From Courtroom". Desert Sun (263). California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. 10 June 1970. p. 2. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Equity Hearing Opens". Desert Sun. California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. 22 April 1975. p. A2. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  7. ^ Hicks, Larry (18 May 1985). "Justice angered by 'partisan' politics in election of judges". San Bernardino Sun. California Digital Newspaper Collection. p. 1. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "State Bar". Coronado Eagle and Journal. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 14 September 1989. p. 21. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b Dolan, Maura (October 1, 1995). "State Chief Justice Lucas to Retire: Courts: He will step down in May. He cites recent marriage as a chief reason for decision. Observers credit him with restoring order in wake of Bird court". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2017. 
  11. ^ Blum, Bill (January 1991). "California Supreme Court: Toward a Radical Middle". ABA Journal. 77: 48–52. Retrieved May 26, 2017. 
  12. ^ Dorsen, Norman, ed. (2002). The Unpredictable Constitution. New York, NY: NYU Press. p. 267. ISBN 0814719481. Retrieved May 26, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Editorial: Brown will replace his stamp on the high court, partisanship aside". Sacramento Bee. March 9, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2017. 
  14. ^ "In Memoriam: JAMS Remembers Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas (Ret.)". JAMS ADR Los Angeles. September 30, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2017. 
  15. ^ White, Jeremy B.; Cadelago, Christopher (September 28, 2016). "Former California Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas dies at 89". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2016-10-01. 
  16. ^ Dolan, Maura (September 29, 2016). "Former Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, who steered state's top court to the right, dies at 89". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-10-01. 
  17. ^ "Marriage Licenses, Los Angeles County". Long Beach Independent. July 6, 1956. p. 33. Retrieved September 24, 2017.  Paid subscription access.

Further reading[edit]

Photos and video[edit]

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See also[edit]

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