The art of judges

March 16, 2023 § Leave a comment

Justice James D. Ward and his wife Carole with Ken Auster’s paintings.

WE HAD A VISIT the other day from Jim and Carole Ward, who were in town for a few days from Riverside. Jim — more formally the Honorable Justice James D. Ward, now retired from California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal — is one of a number of judges who have become friends of the gallery over the years.

In a previous lifetime, when I was editor and publisher of California Lawyer magazine, Jim was a prominent lawyer who had argued and won two important First Amendment cases in the U.S. Supreme Court — and a voluble and valuable member of our editorial board. After a meeting, while sharing a meal, we confided our itch for new adventures.

One evening a couple of years later, a friend and I stopped into the beautiful Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel, and there was Jim, having a drink at the bar. I went over to say hello, and he was as affable as ever. (He later told me he had also been approached in the Redwood Room by a lady of the evening, offering companionship.) It turned out we had both found our new adventures: I had opened an art gallery and Jim had gotten himself appointed to the appellate court. 

He was enthusiastic about my new life, and he and Carole would sometimes visit the gallery when they were in San Francisco. They bought one of Ken Auster’s early landscape paintings, of June Lake in the Sierra, where Carole’s family had often vacationed. Across the years and miles, Jim and I have kept in touch and occasionally swapped stories.

Much of the gallery’s clientele has come from the legal world, especially in the early days. That was my world, too. One of my first exhibitions, in 1995, was titled “Lawyers Turned Artists.” A few years later,  when I made a documentary about the California Supreme Court, I was pleased to find a work from my gallery displayed in the chambers of Chief Justice Ronald M. George. 

In fact, my final visitor before we left San Francisco in 2020 was another lawyer who recently had been appointed to the bench, collecting for his new chambers John Payne’s historic painting of the cable cars that once ran past Alta Plaza Park. I was moved when he told me, soon after he became Judge Michael B. McNaughton: “It makes me want to be a better person.” As he was leaving, I wished him well on the bench and told him how much I had enjoyed his visits and friendship over the years.

“Are you kidding?” he responded. “You enriched my life.”

— Thomas R. Reynolds


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