In Memoriam: Edwin Fernando Beach

Edwin Fernando Beach, retired Associate Justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Two, died at hisSanta Paula home on July 4 with his beloved wife Barbara at his side. He was 88. Born in May 19, 1924 inLima,Peru, he moved with his mother and sister toCalifornia in 1930. Beach attended high school inPasadenaand while attendingPasadenaCityCollegevolunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Returning to civilian life after military service, he resumed his education, graduating from USC’sSchoolofLawin 1950. After graduation, he and his first wife, Janet, moved toSanta Paula, where they raised seven children. He and Janet were married for over 50 years. Beach had first visitedSanta Paulaas a college gymnast, and was charmed by the city’s tree-lined streets and surrounding farms and ranches. After passing the bar exam, Beach shared office space with a local attorney.

 “I made myself a nice sign that I lettered myself and I still have it….‘Edwin F. Beach, Attorney at Law,’ and it was a foot and a half long and two inches high, and I was very proud of that,” he said in an interview conducted by retired Presiding Justice Steven Stone for the California Appellate Court Legacy Project. http://www.courts. ca.gov/documents/ACLP-2-Edwin-Beach-Video.html. Stone had begun his own law practice as an associate for Beach, and later became his law partner. Stone notes that “to the extent I have ever had any success, it is largely due to Ed Beach, who taught me how to be a lawyer.” Beach demonstrated the importance of listening carefully (“being a cushion”) and “how to be respectful and straight with people, whether a client, a clerk or an opposing party…”

Beach had always wanted to be a judge. While maintaining his private practice, he served on theVentura County Justice Courtstarting in 1958. The court shared an agricultural building so small that the lawyers and the judge had to leave the building to make room for the jury. Beach said, “it was amusing sometimes, because the train at that time still serviced that agricultural building. They would stop and get fruit that had been fumigated and so forth, and so the train would come chugging in, making a lot of chugging noise and blowing the whistle, right in the middle of a trial. So we’d take a recess for maybe half an hour while they unloaded commodities from the train.” TheJustice Courthad a branch in Fillmore, where the quarters were likewise cramped. Beach said that “to add to the indignity of it all, there was no restroom for the jury to use. So when the jury wanted to go to the restroom, the bailiff would line them all up, walk them half a block to the corner… Union Oil station.”

Many professional colleagues remark on Beach’s ability to work with people. By readingbody languageBeach“could really seek a solution to a problem [clients] might not have a handle on,” Stone explained. He always made sure clients were part of both transactions and litigation, and he taught Stone early that “just because trials are adversarial it doesn’t mean at all that solving problems requires an adversarial approach.”

Oxnardattorney Bill Hair, who met Beach when Hair left the Navy in 1955, also praised Beach as a mentor. He is grateful that Beach told him about the U.C. Hastings program for qualified applicants without undergraduate degrees, for setting up the interview with former District Attorney Roy Gustafson that resulted in Hair’s first job out of law school, and for a lifetime friendship.

In 1968 Beach was elected to the Municipal Court, but before his term began Governor Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Ventura County Superior Court. Beach enjoyed the local bench and hesitated before accepting elevation. He did not want to move toLos Angeles(Division Six of the Second District, now sitting inVentura, was not created until 1981). Also,JusticeBeachthought the Court of Appeal seat should go to Ventura Superior Court Judge Jerry Berenson. Only after the governor’s office made clear it would not appoint Berenson, and after Supreme Court Justice William Clark explained how Beach could commute to the Court of Appeal did Beach agree to join Lester Roth, Macklin Fleming and Lynn “Buck” Compton on Division Two.

Former Court of Appeal research attorney Ed Horowitz says Beach “never put on ‘airs,’” and “despite his overall conservative views, never appeared to prejudge any case.” Kent Richland describes Beach as “a real sweetheart.” Rosalyn Zakheim remembers driving toSanta Paulain the days before email to deliver court materials to Beach. One of her fondest research attorney memories, apart from working on cases, is when Beach joined Zakheim’s family for a Passover Seder.

The most noted of Beach’s former research attorneys is Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard. She, too, emphasizes that Beach was “wonderful to work for, so thoughtful.” Kennard says he was never arrogant and always “knew how to put people at ease.” In the Legacy Project interview, Beach cited  Bouvia v. Superior Court (1986) 179Cal. App.3d 1127 as his most noted decision. Ms. Bouvia had lost use of her legs and arms, and was fed by a nasogastric tube. She petitioned for removal of the feeding tube over her doctors’ objections. Beach summarized the case as holding that Bouvia “had the right to have the tube removed, that the doctors in the hospitals did not have the say… The decision-making power lay in her hands alone.” InSanta Paula, Beach immersed himself in civic life as well as the law, serving on the boards of several nonprofits and frequently speaking at civic events. In 1989 Beach was honored by the Ventura County Bar Association as the fourth recipient of the Ben E. Nordman Public Service Award.

Beach was an avid horseman and musician, and a talented artist. He greatly respected the stonemasons who created the rock walls around the gardens of his home, and was delighted when they helped him learn their craft. He often spent weekends with a sledge hammer in hand, “chopping rocks” and building walls. He loved poetry, reciting Longfellow at length. He was a fan of S.J. Perelman, the Marx Brothers, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. AndJusticeBeachas also an exceptional mimic, delivering flawless but always kind impressions of his fellow lawyers and judges. Justice Ed Beach will be remembered as a man of extraordinary integrity, kindness, generosity, friendliness. intellect, and humility. As Justice Kennard puts it, “gracious” is the perfect word to sum up his character and his career.

Wendy Lascher, CITATIONS Editor compiled this obituary.

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