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Obituaries

Paul Boland, 65; appellate justice guided many students, influenced teaching of law

September 07, 2007|Jocelyn Y. Stewart and Henry Weinstein | Times Staff Writers

Paul Boland, an associate justice of the state Court of Appeal who was widely respected for having mentored scores of law students and for developing an innovative program that influenced the way law is taught at schools throughout the nation, died of cancer Wednesday at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. He was 65.

When he was a professor of law at UCLA in the 1970s, Boland and two others, David Binder and Paul Bergman, designed what was believed to be the first clinical education program at a major law school, said appellate Justice Larry Rubin, a longtime friend and colleague of Boland.

"That program spread in the '70s throughout the United States, but the first was at UCLA, and he was at the forefront," Rubin said. "He loved students, and he loved teaching."

Students in the program actually tried dependency court cases under the supervision of a lawyer, giving them real-world experience at a time when most learning in law school came from reading legal cases.

A recurring theme in Boland's career was a drive to see the legal system be its best. As a Superior Court judge he cracked down on continuances in his courtroom -- and cut the waiting period for a trial. On the appellate court he encouraged colleagues to improve their writing. And over the years he worked with judicial organizations, including the California Judges Assn. and the Judicial Council of California, which is the policy-making arm of the state court system.

During his five-year tenure on the council, it consolidated the state's trial courts and created policies designed to increase public access to the courts and ensure judicial fairness. Boland also served on the California Commission on Access to Justice from 1997 to 2000.

As a mentor, he helped persuade a nearly 40-year-old mother of three who had just finished her first year of law school in 1974 to aim high. Lourdes G. Baird went on to become U.S. attorney in Los Angeles in 1990 when she was 55, making her the first presidentially appointed U.S. attorney who was also a grandmother.

"Paul really encouraged me to go out and do things," said Baird, who also served as a U.S. District Court judge. "I came so far in those two years. Paul made me realize I was capable of doing it. . . . He touched so many lives."

Three years ago Boland developed an externship for the 2nd District Court of Appeal that offers students who have finished their first year of law school an opportunity to do legal research for justices and attend seminars and field trips. Boland spent hours with students.

"He worked with us hand in hand," said Tyler Johnson, now a litigator at the Bryan Cave law firm in Los Angeles. "I walked in the first day; he gave me a stack of paper 2 feet high. . . . It was certainly more work for Paul than to just do it himself."

Before his appointment to the appellate court in 2001, Boland sat on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench and served in each of its four largest divisions: civil, criminal, family and juvenile. Those 17 years of experience left him convinced that even cases that seemed trivial to others were to the litigant "a matter of utmost seriousness." Those who sit in judgment of others are obliged to treat the issues in the same attentive manner, Boland told the Daily Journal in 2004.

"That is an enormous responsibility and an extraordinary trust," he said. "Nothing prepares you for that."

That sense of responsibility and focus could be felt in his courtroom.

"He brought this enormous humanity of his to the courtroom in a very inspiring way," said Los Angeles lawyer Stephen R. English.

Boland was born in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 1942, into a family steeped in the medical profession. As far back as his great-grandfather, men had become doctors.

But Boland came of age during a time of social upheaval, and his concern about social justice led him to law.

"As a student of that period," he said in the Daily Journal article, "I think I appreciated the role that our legal system could play in helping our generation achieve a more just society."

Boland graduated from Loyola High School and attended what is now Loyola Marymount University. In 1966 he earned a law degree from the USC law school and four years later a master of law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

From 1967 to 1968, he worked as a staff attorney and deputy director of litigation at the Western Center for Law and Poverty, which handles class action cases on behalf of the poor. He spent 11 years as a law professor, associate dean and director of clinical legal education at UCLA, until he was appointed to the bench in 1981 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Boland's first assignment was to the dependency court, and he maintained an interest in matters related to youth. In 1989 and 1990 he served as presiding judge of the 50 Los Angeles County juvenile courts.

On the appellate court Boland stressed writing in clear, plain language as a means of helping trial judges better understand the court's dispositional orders.

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