Byron Waters, Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney and the First President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a Director-At-Large of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, President Jack Osborn asked me to serve on the San Bernardino County Bar Association Bulletin Committee.  As such, I will be writing a monthly column which will mostly be focusing on bench and bar history of San Bernardino County.  Below is a heavily edited version of my first article, which I have submitted for publication in the March or April bulletin.

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

[Illustration of Byron Waters, San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 108, March 28, 1895, Pg. 5]

Byron Waters was an organizer and the first President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, organized in 1875.

In The Bench and Bar of the County of San Bernardino, State of California (1955), Page 15, former California Associate Supreme Court Justice and native of San Bernardino, Jesse William Curtis gave this synopsis of Mr. Waters’ life.

Hon. Byron Waters also came to San Bernardino before reaching his majority. He came from his native state of Georgia. He first worked for his uncle James Waters, who ran dairy in Yucaipa. But a dairy was no place for young man with Mr. Waters’ ambition and talents. He read law in the offices of Judge Rolfe and Judge Willis and was admitted to practice in 1871. He almost immediately gained place in the front ranks among the members of the bar of the county. His practice in an incredibly short time became both large and lucrative. In 1877[,] he was elected to the assembly and although one of the youngest members he was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the legislative body. By reason of the reputation gained at that one session of the legislature in the following year he was elected a delegate at large to the State Constitutional Convention which framed our present Constitution. In 1881[,] Mr. Waters temporarily retired from the practice of law and helped organize the Farmers Exchange Bank of San Bernardino and became its first president. But his love for the law drew him back to its practice and he soon retired from the banking business to enter again the ranks of the attorneys of this county. He at once took his place as one of the leaders of the Bar. He attracted the attention of Judge S.H. Mesick of San Francisco, a leading mining lawyer of the state, who offered him partnership if he would move to San Francisco. Mr. Waters accepted the offer and the firm of Mesick and Waters was formed and during the few years of its existence was retained in many of the most important mining cases before the courts of the state. Due to the failing health of Judge Mesick the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Waters practiced alone in San Francisco. After successful though rather brief practice in the then metropolis of the state, he returned to San Bernardino and again opened his office and continued his practice for a few years when he was offered membership in the legal staff of the Southern Pacific Company, which he accepted and again became resident of the bay district in the north. Evidently the character of the work for the railroad did not suit the taste of Mr. Waters for after few years with the company he resigned his position and again resumed his practice in his old home town. On each occasion of his return to this county his old, and many new, clients sought him out and his law practice soon assumed its old time proportion as one of the most profitable in the county. In his declining years he was so unfortunate as to lose his eyesight completely. Notwithstanding this affliction he continued with the assistance of two younger members of the bar to carry on an extensive and profitable law practice until the infirmities of age compelled him to retire from all activities. He passed away on November 29 1934 in the city in which he had made his home, with brief exceptions above referred to for so many years.

(Mr. Waters is sometimes referred to as “Honorable,” which refers to his one term in the California Assembly.)

Associate Justice Curtis’ summary of Waters’ life is a good synopsis of Byron Waters life, but additional details expose the true breadth of his career.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

The Joint Meeting of the Inland Empire Chapters of the American Inns of Court, DoubleTree Hotel, Ontario, California February 18, 2015

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Every year, the Inland Empire Chapters of the American Inns of Court hold a joint meeting.  For the recent past (until last year), there were three local Inns: my Inn, San Bernardino’s The Honorable Joseph B. Campbell Inn, Riverside’s The Honorable Leo A. Deegan Inn, and Palm Spring’s The Honorable Warren Slaughter-Richard Roemer Inn.  Last year, we were joined by The Southwest Inn in Temecula, California.

The joint meeting is rotated amongst the Inns: last year was the Deegan Inn’s turn, and this year the honor went to the Campbell Inn. Next year will be The Southwest Inn’s first opportunity.

Our dinner was at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, a sprawling, well-appointed facility.

Our speaker and honored guest was the Honorable André Birotte Jr., who was recently appointed, unanimously, by the United States Senate to be a United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California.  On that accomplishment, Judge Birotte remarked that he was surprised to hear a litany of yes votes (he mentioned Senator Hatch and Senator Cruz).  He thought it may have been non-controversial because he was appointed unanimously to be the United States Attorney for the Central District of California four years prior.

I asked him about why in the age of CM/ECF and mandatory electronic filing by litigants, why the Court required blue backing on courtesy copies.  He smiled and said he couldn’t speak for other judges, but that he only read the pleadings electronically, but that the clerks used the courtesy copies to make notes. It is good to note that Judge Birotte does not require blue backing for mandatory chambers copies. Judge Birotte’s Proedure and Schedule page says: “ALL EXHIBITS TO CHAMBERS’ COPIES MUST BE TABBED. BLUEBACKS ARE NOT REQUIRED,”

 

Judge Birotte spoke about the necessity of knowing and following the local rules, particularly Local Rule 7-3 requiring meet and confer.  He urged civility among the bar.  He said when he was a Los Angeles County Public Defender and an Assistant United States Attorney, the criminal bar was civil because it was a smaller community.

When asked about whether he spoke to the President upon confirmation, he stated that in both appointments, while he was vetted by Sentor Feinstein, he never spoke to President Obama. He said the older District Court judges told him that they spoke to their appointing-Presidents, but that was no longer the case.

The Mission of the American Inns of Court is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.  If you are interested in joining The Joseph B. Campbell American Inn of Court, which normally meets at the Castaway Restaurant in San Bernardino, please contact me.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708