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Centennial Series: Long Beach & The Law


In honor of the Long Beach Bar Association’s Centennial, this is a series of historical notes on cases and courts in Long Beach through the decades.

February -The Roaring Twenties


      The “Roaring Twenties” saw many changes in the

legal landscape of Long Beach. One of the most

significant was the establishment of a Superior Court

branch here in 1923. Its location? It held court in Long

Beach City Hall. The Long Beach Bar had sponsored

the legislation to allow branch courts within a County.

The first Superior Court judge in Long Beach was the

Honorable Ralph H. Crock, formerly a local attorney

(as was the next Long Beach judge, P.E. Keeler).


      But the legislation authorizing branch courts was

deemed unconstitutional in 1924 because the

authorization was limited for “counties of the first

class.” The Long Beach Bar Association again stepped

in with a revised measure in 1925. It passed and a

branch of the County Clerk’s office was established in

1926 along with a second branch courtroom. The first

courtroom remained in City Hall, but the second

branch was set up in the Insurance Exchange building (there was limited space in City

                                                                        Hall due to the rapidly expanding city government).                                                                           In 1929 both courtrooms were transferred to the

                                                                        Jergins Trust Building.


                                                                              The 1920s also saw passage of a municipal court                                                                          bill, and the whopping five departments took over at

                                                                       the Insurance Exchange (known then as the

                                                                       Middough Building.) Two of Governor Richardson’s

                                                                       five appointees were later deemed ineligible                                                                                        because they did not meet the “five year practice                                                                                rule.”


      Both the City and the legal profession were booming. Buffum’s Department store opened downtown and See’s candies opened a shop here. The Jazz Age saw the beginning of the oil boom and the expansion of its airport.   












But what sort of cases out of Long Beach became published precedent? Here’s a hint – Long Beach got its first electric traffic signal in 1927. The age of the automobile had arrived and issues which might seem obvious today were novel back then. In the case of Ex Parte Daniels (183 Cal. 636) the California Supreme Court ruled that Long Beach’s citywide 15 MPH speed limit was invalid because the State’s 20 MPH limit preempted the field. In McManus v.                                                                             Arnold (82 Cal.App.215) a motorist threw his vehicle in                                                                        reverse and ran over a child. It was held that neither the                                                                    child nor his parents were contributorily negligent                                                                              (Defendant contended the parent s were negligent in                                                                        supervision of this child).


                                                                    Allowable damages for personal injury were still small                                                                 by today’s standards. In a wrongful death action, a new

                                                              trial motion was granted on grounds that $10,000 was

                                                              excessive (58 Cal.App. 509). In the days before the Coastal

                                                              Commission, one citizen tried to fence off a portion of the

                                                              beach and shot a man who had the temerity to try taking

                                                              down the fence. The Plaintiff’s damages were reduced

                                                              by remittitur to $10,500 (208 Cal. 315).


      As the governmental apparatus grew, the boundaries of power were checked by actions for Writs of Mandamus. These actions became fairly common in Long Beach of the 1920s. The City Council had to be ordered to hold a recall election against two of its members (207 Cal. 263). Expansion of the sewer system had to be compelled in the face of administrative recalcitrance (91 Cal.App. 168).


      The next two decades would see Long Beach’s transformation from “Iowa by the Sea” to a major urban center, and the Long Beach Bar Association played no small part in this history.

















Click below to jump to a different point in the series:


January - A Look at the Teens


February - The Roaring Twenties


March - Shaking the Thirties


April - The War Years


May - The Booming Fifities


June - Those Swinging Sixties


July - Silly Styles and the Seventies


August - The New Wave of the Eighties


September - The Nineties, Fin de Siecle


October - Into the 21st Century



The LBBA would like to extend a special thank you to Ken Freedman for his work in preparing this series.





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