SAN DIEGO’S LL.B. (LEGAL LORE & THE BAR), by Leland Ghent Stanford (San Diego: Neyenesch Printers, Inc., 1968). 310 pp. Indexed. Illustrated, Footnotes. $6.00.
Readers of The Daily Transcript, San Diego’s legal newspaper, have for years enjoyed Leland Stanford’s humorous but authentic anecdotes about law and justice in San Diego County from the earliest times. These short articles have now been compiled and published in book form, with the proceeds going to the Law Library Justice Foundation.
The first chapters are entitled “Indians and the Law,” and tell us that “Justice for Europeans in San Diego County began as an ‘arrowing experience. Three of the first interlopers were shot with arrows by Indian guardians of the terrain!” We learn that until 1885 neither the state nor federal government had criminal jurisdiction of the Indians on their reservations. Old fashioned tribal courts or councils rendered most judgments.
Next we learn (most entertainingly) about the laws of the Mission days. We find that the Mission padres were the fountainhead of law and justice for thousands of early San Diegans. Theirs was a strict, paternalistic government, offbeat juridicially, and comparatively shortlived, covering a period roughly contemporaneous with the terms of office of the first three Presidents of the United States.
The chapters go on to tell about the modus operandi of Old Town jurisprudence, which was not always synonymous with justice. They recount some of the un-civil Civil cases, and probe into old Probate records of the days before New Town became San Diego. A chapter entitled “The Centennial Donnybrook” describes the dramatic events leading up to the transfer of the county offices from the Whaley House in Old Town to the Express Building in Horton’s New Town in 1871. (It was all very legal.)
Other chapters bring us up-to-date with the history of the Bar and Bench, including biographies of many of the colorful judges and lawyers San Diegans have known in the last one hundred years.
The book contains many photographs, and is cleverly illustrated with pen sketches by Marion Hill Bressette, archivist in the County Law Library. It is a remarkable documentation of two hundred years of the men and laws which have governed San Diego County. It is definitely not a “law book,” just for lawyers and law students, but is delightful, informative and entertaining reading for everyone interested in knowing more about the development of law and justice in San Diego County.
Elizabeth C. MacPhail
Author and Lawyer