Ex-Calif. Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas Dies at 89

     (CN) – Former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, who led the high court during a time of political upheaval after voters booted three of its members, has died at 89.
     Lucas was known for his support of business and the death penalty, both of which were staunchly opposed by his predecessor Rose Bird.
     Justices Bird, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso were removed from the Supreme Court in an unprecedented ouster by voters in 1986, following a campaign that accused them of being soft on crime.
     Then-Gov. George Deukmejian had elevated Lucas, his former law partner, to the high court in 1984, and Lucas replaced Bird as chief justice in 1987. The addition of two other Deukmejian appointees shifted the panel’s political tenor.
     Lucas had previously served as a federal judge in the Central District, appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1971.
     A Berkeley native, Lucas earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Southern California. He was also a trial judge in Los Angeles from 1967 to 1971.
     As chief justice, Lucas pledged to decide every case within 90 days of argument, including death penalty appeals.
     “I believe it is important that the citizens of this state know that a decision will be forthcoming from the court in a predictable fashion,” Lucas told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. He authored 152 majority decisions during his tenure.
     While the Bird court became famous for overturning death sentences, the Lucas court upheld them nearly 90 percent of the time.
     In civil cases, Lucas was chiefly pro-business. In 1995, the court overruled a landmark decision expanding landlord liability for tenant injuries. In 1991, it ruled that any taxes to replace revenue lost by Proposition 13, a measure that slashed property taxes, would require a two-thirds vote.
     “Proposition 13 and its limitations on local taxation are constitutional mandates of the people which we are sworn to uphold and enforce. Any modification of these mandates must come from the people,” Lucas wrote for the court.
     That same year, the Lucas court upheld Proposition 140, which imposed term limits on legislators and heavy cuts to the Legislature’s budget.
     His court also took on the question of “fetal personhood,” deciding in 1994 that the shooting of a pregnant woman resulting in the death of the fetus could be prosecuted as murder “as long as the state can show that the fetus has progressed beyond the embryonic state of seven to eight weeks.”
     Lucas noted in the majority’s opinion that it should not directly affect abortion rights, citing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
     “The state has an interest in punishing violent conduct that deprives a pregnant woman of her procreative choice,” he wrote.
     Lucas retired in 1996, going to work as an arbitrator for Judicial Arbitration & Mediation Services Inc.
     In a statement late Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown said, “Chief Justice Lucas led California’s highest court with a steady hand and probing mind. Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to the Lucas family.”
     Lucas is survived by his wife Fiorenza Cartright Lucas, children Lisa Lucas Mooney and California State Librarian Greg Lucas, and six stepchildren.
     On Thursday, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called for a moment of silence at the outset of a special session of the California Supreme Court. “He was a tremendous leader with great vision,” she said. “He came to the Supreme Court at a time of great turmoil. He was a peacemaker, and he brought the family together.”

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