Marvin R. Baxter

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Marvin Baxter
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
In office
January 1991 – January 5, 2015
Appointed byGeorge Deukmejian
Preceded byDavid Eagleson
Succeeded byMariano-Florentino Cuéllar
Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Fifth District
In office
December 1988 – January 1991
Nominated byGeorge Deukmejian
Personal details
Born (1940-01-09) January 9, 1940 (age 79)
Fowler, California, U.S.
Alma materCalifornia State University, Fresno
UC Hastings College of the Law

Marvin Ray Baxter (born January 9, 1940) is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California who served from January 1991 to January 5, 2015.


Baxter was born in Fowler, California, and was raised on his family's farm. He is of Armenian descent; all four of his grandparents were born in Armenia and later moved to the United States.[1] His paternal grandfather changed the family surname from Bagdasarian to Baxter because of strong anti-Armenian prejudice in the Fresno area during the 1930s.[1]

Baxter graduated from Fowler High School and went on to attend California State University, Fresno, where he earned his undergraduate degree in economics. In November 1961, as Fresno student body president he received a telegram of support from President John F. Kennedy for the Mercy Bowl football game.[2] Upon graduation, Baxter became a Coro Foundation Fellow in Public Affairs (1962–63), then entered UC Hastings College of the Law, from which he earned his law degree in 1966.[3][4]

In 1967, Baxter began his legal career as a Fresno County deputy district attorney. Subsequently, he entered private practice in civil law in 1969.[4] It was during this time he was an associate and then a partner in the Fresno law firm of Andrews, Andrews, Thaxter, Jones and Baxter where he practiced civil law.[5]

In 1983, he moved back into public service as Appointments Secretary to Governor George Deukmejian, advising him on judicial and executive appointments.[4]

In December 1988, Governor Deukmejian appointed Baxter as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District. In January 1991, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California.[4] He was retained by the electorate in November 2002, with 71.5% of the vote, for a 12-year term.[6]

Baxter retired from the court at the end of his term on January 4, 2015.[7][8]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Baxter preferred not to describe his own judicial philosophy, but a 1993 article in the Los Angeles Times described him as having an "emerging reputation among court observers as cautious, conservative and competent".[9] Observers split between those who considered him a solid part of the Court's conservative majority (led by Malcolm M. Lucas), and others who considered him harder to pin down.[10]

Baxter's notable case opinions include People v. Superior Court (Decker), in which he wrote the majority opinion finding the hiring of a "hit man" to kill constituted attempted murder. Baxter voted with the majority in: Randall v. Orange County Council (1998), concerning the applicability of a civil rights statute to the Boy Scouts of America; Strauss v. Horton (2009), regarding Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage; and People v. Diaz (2011), finding police may search a cell phone obtained during an arrest without a warrant. He joined the concurrence and dissent of Justice Edward A. Panelli in Knight v. Jewett (1992), holding assumption of risk could still bar a claim for negligence. In 2008, he was part of the dissenting minority in In re Marriage Cases, a 4-3 decision legalizing same-sex marriage in California.

Honors and awards[edit]

On May 16, 2015, Baxter received an honorary Doctor of laws degree from California State University, Fresno.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b Maura Dolan, "Sentence Upheld in Turkish Diplomat's Slaying," Los Angeles Times, 3 February 1995.
  2. ^ "JFK Throws Support Behind Mercy Bowl". Madera Tribune (136). California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. 23 November 1961. p. 2. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  3. ^ "Hastings Community". Hastings Alumni Publications. San Francisco, CA: Hastings College of the Law Alumni Association. 81: 23. Fall 1992. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter". Judicial Council of California. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  5. ^ "Armenian Bar Hero Announces Retirement from California Supreme Court" (PDF). Armenian Bar Association Newsletter. 25 (2). Summer 2014. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dolan, Maura (July 22, 2014). "Mexico-born law professor Cuellar chosen for California Supreme Court". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  8. ^ "Press release: Justice Marvin Baxter Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election". California State Courts. June 18, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Justice Baxter Digs In but Critics Still Harbor Doubts". The Los Angeles Times. January 19, 1993. p. 3 (Section A).
  10. ^ Elias, Thomas D. (July 1, 2014). "Column: Brown can put his stamp on California Supreme Court". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  11. ^ "Honorary Degree: Marvin R. Baxter". California State University, Fresno. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Alumni Press Release: Justice Marvin Baxter to receive honorary doctorate at commencement May 16". Fresno State News. May 15, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2017.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
David Eagleson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Succeeded by
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar
Preceded by
Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Fifth District
Succeeded by