When Anthony Kennedy was a ‘bashful’ CA lobbyist

anthoney.kennedyJustice Anthony Kennedy, the author of last week’s historic Supreme Court decision making gay marriage the law of the land, is a Californian through and through. Here’s part of his official court bio:

Kennedy was born in Sacramento, California, on July 23, 1936. He married Mary Davis and has three children. He received his B.A. from Stanford University and the London School of Economics, and his LL.B. from Harvard Law School.


He was in private practice in San Francisco, California from 1961-1963, as well as in Sacramento, California from 1963-1975. From 1965 to 1988, he was a Professor of Constitutional Law at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. He [was] a member of the California Army National Guard in 1961 …


He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1975. President Reagan nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat February 18, 1988.

Father was a well-known Sacramento lawyer

Kennedy was the last U.S. Supreme Court nominee without any Senate opposition.

Kennedy’s father was a Sacramento lawyer who had frequent dealings with the California Legislature; he was friendly with Gov. Earl Warren, who would go on to be chief justice. This is from a Washington Post profile of Anthony Kennedy in December 1987 after his high court nomination:

Kennedy [was] the second child of parents by then deeply imbedded in the civic life of the modestly proportioned city that serves as California’s state capital.

Kennedy’s father, Anthony J. (Bud) Kennedy, was a lawyer and lobbyist locally famous for his charm and caginess amidst old-line California politics; the senior Kennedy was reputed to have helped finance his law school years as a poker player, a tale he apparently made no effort to discourage, and that image stayed with him throughout much of his working life. …

“Kind of a shrewd, cardplayer’s view of life,” said Dozier, who remembers vividly the big white house with the train set and the ping-pong table and the closet perpetually stocked with sports equipment. …

“A lot of business was done over the breakfast room table or the back patio,” said Dana Smith, a petroleum and chemical executive who was married to the younger Anthony Kennedy’s late sister Nancy. “You might find anybody in there, from the Portuguese immigrant Delta farmer … . You could find the grocer stopping off and having a drink after he’d closed his store. You could find the priest in there.”

His heart just wasn’t in lobbying state lawmakers

Kennedy returned to his home state after thriving at Harvard, the Post account notes:

Kennedy graduated cum laude from law school, was taken into a prestigious San Francisco firm, and within a year was back in Sacramento to cope with his father’s estate. The senior Kennedy had died of a heart attack while on a business trip in Los Angeles, and despite his relative inexperience, Tony Kennedy took over his father’s Sacramento law practice, lobbying clients and all.

The men who watched Kennedy work, lobbyists and legislators alike, saw a businesslike young man who evidently had little interest in courting legislators with the cocktail party and enthusiastic handshake. His clients included the Schenley distillery company and an opticians’ organization, and men then in the California legislature describe him as having been invariably well-prepared, brisk, and low-key as he argued his client’s position on a pending bill.

“He was a bashful lobbyist, as compared to the public image of a backslapping, cigar-smoking, let’s-go-have-a-drink good old boy,” said San Francisco attorney Bill Bagley, who served in the California state assembly for 14 years. “He didn’t want to accost people, and say, ‘Hey, man, give me a vote.’ It’s not his style.” …

“He acted like it was something he really wasn’t enjoying,” said former state senator Paul Lunardi, who left politics in 1966 and became a lobbyist for the Wine Institute. “I think he wanted to be a lawyer more than a lobbyist.”

Justice Breyer also a California native

Justice Stephen Breyer is the other high court member from California. He was born in San Francisco in 1938; he debated Jerry Brown in high school competitions. Breyer’s father was for years the lead counsel for the San Francisco school board. His brother, Charles, is a sitting judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

All nine Supreme Court justices were born in four states — four in New York (Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan) , two in New Jersey (Scalia and Alito), two in California and one in Georgia (Thomas).

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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