Edward J. Schwartz, 87, a federal judge who campaigned to increase the number of district judges in San Diego County and later presided over the district, died Wednesday.
Born in Seattle, Schwartz spent much of his early life in San Diego, attending a kindergarten on the site of the present federal courthouse, which was named for him in 1994. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in English literature and earned his law degree from San Francisco Law School in 1939.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Schwartz returned to San Diego to practice law, concentrating on business, probate and corporate work. In 1959, he was appointed to the municipal bench by Democratic Gov. Pat Brown. He was elevated to the Superior Court four years later and nominated to the federal bench in 1968. A year later, Schwartz became the chief judge for San Diego, a post he held until 1982.
Among his high-profile cases was one in which he lifted an order in 1996 that had set hiring goals for blacks and Asian Americans; his action eliminated affirmative action from the county's government work force. He also ended a 20-year-old legal dispute over water rights in 1988 by releasing a $17-million payment to owners of the privately held Escondido Mutual Water Co., and in 1987 he ruled that a state rule forbidding the San Diego State University newspaper to editorialize on election campaigns violated the 1st Amendment's protection of free speech.
"He was known for his patience and his love of words, for his love of his wife and of his court," said presiding District Judge Marilyn Huff. ". . . He never had a cross word for anybody." Schwartz, who was hearing cases until about two weeks ago, when he was admitted to Scripps Mercy Hospital, died Wednesday at the hospital. His family declined to reveal the cause of death.