March 3, 2011

Article surveys what are arguably the ten worst opinions issued by the California Supreme Court

The current issue of California Lawyer magazine includes an interesting and informative article by Santa Clara University law professor and California Supreme Court watcher Gerald F. Uelmen. It discusses what Uelmen regards as the ten worst opinions issued by the California Supreme Court in its long and storied history. To select the ten worst opinions, Uelmen applied “the criterion of sheer outlandishness, either in style or in substance.” Not to worry, none of the opinions that Uelmen identified were written by justices currently on the Court.

We would add another especially odious opinion to Professor Uelmen’s list: Ward v. Flood (1874) 48 Cal. 36, an opinion by Chief Justice William T. Wallace in which the Court held that the racial segregation of California’s public schools did not violate either the U.S. or California constitutions. Ward was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson as precedent for upholding racial segregation in public facilities and accommodations. (Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) 163 U.S. 537, 545 [16 S.Ct. 1138, 41 L.Ed. 256].)

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