Tiger of the Week: Ronald George ’61

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(AP Images/Rafael Maldonado)

Ronald George ’61, the chief justice of California’s supreme court for the last 14 years, will step down from the bench in early January. He’s been a judge since 1972, when he joined the municipal court in his native Los Angeles, and in his current post, he has presided over a court system that includes more than 1,700 judges. According to the California Bar Journal, George has “transformed California’s legal landscape,” implementing administrative improvements and securing funding to update the courts’ physical infrastructure.

 
George also has drawn the national spotlight on occasion, most recently in 2008, when he wrote the majority ruling in the court’s 4-3 decision that overturned California’s ban on gay marriage on constitutional grounds. That ruling was trumped by Proposition 8, a voter initiative that changed the state constitution and defined marriage as “between a man and a woman.” George later made a speech about “the perils of direct democracy,” in which he examined the 2008 ballot initiatives, including one that regulated the confinement of backyard fowl. “Chickens gained valuable rights in California on the same day that gay men and lesbians lost them,” he wryly observed.
 
According to the San Jose Mercury News, George told news reporters in early December that he hopes to travel more in retirement, but in the short term, his plan is “to have no plans.”
 
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