|March 11, 1940|
|California Supreme Court Justice|
| Assumed office|
| Term ended|
January 3, 2023
|Succeeded by||Tani Cantil-Sakauye|
|Second District Court of Appeal|
| Dates of service|
Ronald M. George was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court when he retired in 2011. He was appointed to the court in July 29, 1991 by then-governor Pete Wilson. He was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on September 3, 1991. He was elected to a full term on November 8, 1994. He served as Chief Justice from March 28, 1996 until 2011. He was retained to this position on November 3, 1998 with 71.5% of the vote.
George announced July 15, 2010 that rather than seeking retention in November, he would step down from the court at the end of his term, on January 3, 2011. Tani Cantil-Sakauye was appointed and elected to the Chief Justiceship, to succeed George upon retirement.
After graduating from law school, George served as the Deputy Attorney General in California's Deparment of Justice. From 1965-1972, he represented California in cases to both the California Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1972, he was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Governor Ronald Reagan and re-elected in 1976. George was next appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor Edward Brown, Jr. in 1977. George served on that court for ten years, winning re-election contests in 1978 and 1984. In 1987, Governor George Deukmejian selected Judge George for a position on the California Courts of Appeal. He was elected by voters in 1990 to serve the remainder of his term.
Awards and recognition
George has garnered several notable awards in his judicial career, including:
- 2008 Recipient of the Family Law Person of the Year from the Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- 2007 American Bar Association's John Marshall Award
- 2007 Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award
- 2002 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence
For a complete list of Justice George's honors, please visit: Chief Justice Ronald M. George biography
- Yes - 4,656,520 or 75.49%
- No - 1,511,953 or 24.51%
- Yes - 3,153,849 or 57.02%
- No - 2,376,799 or 42.9%
- Yes - 802,284 or 64.08%
- No - 449,662 or 35.92%
On gay marriage
On May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court, backed by George's majority opinion, concluded that "equal respect and dignity" of marriage is a "basic civil right". This ruling overturned California's existing marriage laws. A year later, after California voters decided to amend their constitution, the California Supreme Court affirmed the voters' referendum.
The most notable moment from George's time on the Superior Court bench came in 1981, where he oversaw the People v. Angelo Buono, better known as the "Hillside Strangler Case". George rejected a motion from the prosecution to dismiss the charges, leading to a re-vamped prosecution that eventually convicted Buono on 9 of the 10 murder charges.
"Declaration of war"
According to Bob Egelko, writing in the California Courts Review, George told a 2003 gathering of the California Judges Association that attempts by California judges or political leaders to alter the structure of the Judicial Council of California so that its members are chosen using a more democratic process would be taken by him as "a declaration of war." Under the current system, George appoints nearly all members of the Judicial Council of California; it, in turn, supervises the California Administrative Office of the Courts, a 900-person office with significant influence over the California state court system.
In an August 2009 meeting of the Judicial Council, George stated that opposition to the decision to close the California courts for one day per month "has come from persons who in the past have shown little or no interest in our efforts to maintain and increase access to justice." In his comments, George questioned whether the expressed concerns with court closures were "totally genuine or reflect instead perhaps some personal concern about the implications, financial or otherwise, to oneself from closures and from the pressure to engage in voluntary furloughs one day a month."
Allegations of Corruption
In July 2010 Human Rights Alert (NGO) filed complaint against the California Judicial Council and Ronald George for their conduct in the litigation of the habeas corpus of former US prosecutor Richard Fine, who was imprisoned for 18 months under solitary confinement with no valid legal records for the imprisonment.
Ronald George, according to his official biography, served in leadership positions in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles around 1985, at the time that Sustain the case management system of the Court was implemented. The system is alleged as enabling tool for racketeering in the Los Angeles Superior Court. (see further details and references under Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California.
- SBX2 11 is a California Senate Bill passed in 2009. The bill was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on February 20, 2009. The bill reinstated certain supplemental benefits for judges and gave them retroactive immunity for accepting compensation from the county of Los Angeles, which the Constitution clearly states shall be set by the legislature. Ronald George is the chairman of the Judicial Council of California, which wrote SBX2 11.
- Text of Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s State of the Judiciary Address, 2010
- Biography of Ronald George on the California Supreme Court website
- Project Vote Smart biography of Ronald George
- Ronald M. George profile from the Metropolitan News-Enterprise
- The New York Times, "California High Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban"
- The New York Times, California Court Affirms RIght to Gay Marriage," May 16, 2008
- Los Angeles Times, "Verdict on chief justice's letter," September 24, 2007
- LA Times "California Chief Justice Ronald George leaves historic legacy," December 30, 2010
- Chief Justice Ronald George
- Los Angeles Times, "California Supreme Court chief to retire," July 15, 2010
- California Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ronald M. George
- Metropolitan News-Enterprise "Matrimonial Lawyers to Honor Chief Justice, Judge Lewis," February 24, 2010
- California Secretary of State, 1998 General Election Statement of Vote
- California Secretary of State, 1994 General Election Statement of Vote
- California Secretary of State, 1990 General Election Statement of Vote
- CA Court Affirmed Gay Marriage
- CA Court Upholds Voter Referendum
- The Hillside Stranglers
- California Courts Review, Spring 2006 (p. 13)
- Minutes of the August 14, 2009 Meeting of the Judicial Council (p. 7)
- AOCWatcher," "Judicial Wars: Judges Upset with comment by Justice George," August 24, 2009
- Human Rights Alert (NGO)," Fine v Sheriff of Los Angeles County (2:09-cv-01914) Complaint against Attorney Kevin McCormick and the California Judicial Council, Chaired by California Chief Justice Ronald George – for public corruption, deprivation of civil rights under the color of law – Pertaining to Habeas Corpus Petition of 70 Year Old Former US Prosecutor Richard Fine. ," July 04, 2010
- Text of Senate Bill No. 11
|Former||Annette Abbott Adams • Alexander O. Anderson • Frank M. Angellotti • Rose Bird • Carlos Moreno • Ronald George • Serranus Clinton Hastings •|