We honor retired Judge Loren McMaster of Sacramento, who passed away last week at the age of 71 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was one of the Alliance’s early directors and a staunch defender of local court autonomy.
Judge McMaster brought to the bench a wide-ranging intellect and an active mind. He wrote law review articles, contributed to practitioners’ guides, and spent countless hours training lawyers and judges. He was not just smart; he was witty. He penned a legendary rhyming statement of decision in a tort case, reprinted below, for which he faced a CJP staff inquiry. He was also ferociously devoted to his profession, putting in a full day of work even when he needed to bring an oxygen tank to his chambers.
We will remember Judge McMaster most for his courage. His assignment—the law and motion calendar in the state’s capital—was a judicial hot seat, requiring him to make tough calls in cases involving powerful and vocal interests. One of his characteristically thoughtful and well-written decisions in a controversial case triggered a recall campaign. He never flinched.
Loren McMaster was among the first to raise principled objections to CCMS, and at the height of the Judicial Council’s power and hubris he publicly spoke out to question proposed raises for AOC staff members. At a meeting of the Judicial Council, the chair of the powerful Executive and Planning Committee called those who objected to the raises "clowns." Judge McMaster was vindicated last year when the State Auditor found that the AOC is paying “unreasonably high salaries” to its top brass.
The flag at the Sacramento courthouse will fly at half mast. Shortly before Judge McMaster's death, Alliance directors voted to present him with the Eagle Award for his many contributions to the struggle for judicial branch reform. It will be presented by Alliance President Steve White to his grandson at a flag-lowering ceremony later this month.
We will miss Judge McMaster deeply. He embodied the virtues of wisdom, integrity, and courage to which we as judges aspire. We remain dedicated to the cause of judicial independence for which he was so steadfast a champion.
Directors, Alliance of California Judges
An excerpt from the tentative ruling finding no merit to a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress in Mendoze v. Deffner (December 5, 2006):
Defendant planted a creeping vine
That crept and crawled and soon entwined
Itself in plaintiff’s roof, and made a mess
Causing plaintiff to suffer great distress
This lawsuit follows but leaves unsaid
Why plaintiff didn’t whack the vine instead
-- Loren McMaster, August 13, 1944 — February 12, 2015