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Donald R. Wright Papers: Finding Aid
mssHM 71551-71636  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
This collection contains the papers of lawyer and California State Supreme Court judge Donald R. Wright (1907-1985), chiefly consisting of correspondence, and some documents, dating from the 1970s. Most of the correspondence relates in some way to the California Supreme Court, including congratulations on Wright's appointment as Chief Justice in 1970, as well as a large group of telegrams and letters received in regards to the Court's decision to end capital punishment in California in 1972.
Background
Born in Placentia, California, on February 7, 1907, Donald R. Wright (1907-1985) attended some of the nation’s top institutions of learning on his path to becoming a prominent California lawyer and judge. After graduating from Stanford University in 1929, Wright went on to study law at Harvard, where he graduated in 1932. He passed the California bar exam in June 1933 and immediately began work for Barrick, Pool, and Knox, a Pasadena law firm, with whom he worked for the next twenty years. Wright’s only respite from law came during the Second World War, while he served as an U.S. Army Air Force intelligence officer in Alaska. In 1953, California Governor Earl Warren appointed Wright to Pasadena district judge. In 1961, Los Angeles voters elected Wright to serve as a judge on the county’s Superior Court, a position which he served for seven years until 1968, when Governor Ronald Reagan appointed Wright to position of Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. Wright only served in this capacity for two years before Reagan appointed him Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court. In this position, Wright took positions counter to the wishes of his political allies, most notably his opinion striking down the death penalty in 1972 and when voters reinstated it by initiative in 1976, striking it down again. Repulsed at his stance, Reagan openly lamented ever appointing Wright to the post. Other accomplishments of the Wright court included expanding the definitions of illegally obtained evidence for criminal cases, and the prevention of police from surreptitiously posing as students in college classes to root out supposedly dissident professors. Wright retired from the court in 1977 and died at his home in Pasadena on March 21, 1985.
Extent
87 items in 2 boxes
Restrictions
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
Availability
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.