A Fine Jurist Retires

Come May 1, the Court of Appeal, the Bar, and the public will be losing a very dedicated public servant, Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo. Justice Ruvolo is retiring, leaving the First District Court of Appeal after 22 years on the appellate bench. For the past 12 years, Justice Ruvolo has been the Presiding Justice in Division 4. Prior to being appointed to the appellate court, Justice Ruvolo was Judge Ruvolo on the Contra Costa County Superior Court.

A teacher as well as jurist, Justice Ruvolo is on the faculty at Hastings College of the Law and has taught at John F. Kennedy School of Law and the California Judicial College. Prior to becoming a judge, Justice Ruvolo litigated at the venerable law firm Bronson Bronson & McKinnon, and as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Those who have appeared before Justice Ruvolo on appellate cases, or had the chance to work with him at bench/bar functions and MCLE presentations, know him to be a most amiable person with a keen mind and great sense of humor. His enthusiasm for the finest nuances in legal issues, and his active participation in oral argument, always meant that a party’s arguments would get the highest levels of scrutiny and every consideration. As appellate lawyers, we could ask for nothing more.

Retirement is a new beginning, not just an ending. But the Appellate Bar will miss this fine jurist.

One somewhat frequent question we field as appellate lawyers is why the client should hire us given that we know very little about the case whereas trial counsel already knows it all. At times like this we obviously address the issue of fresh insights and objectivity, and it doesn’t hurt that various appellate decisions have remarked on the subject. Here is an excerpt from one:

“Given the facts and circumstances as well as the precedents which govern review, this appeal was ‘dead on arrival’ at the appellate courthouse.

“We also observe that trial attorneys who prosecute their own appeals, such as appellant, may have ‘tunnel vision.’ Having tried the case themselves, they become convinced of the merits of their cause. They may lose objectivity and would be well served by consulting and taking the advice of disinterested members of the bar, schooled in appellate practice. We suspect that had appellant done so they would have advised him not to pursue this appeal.”

(Estate of Gilkison (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443, 1449-1450.)


Now and then we are asked what it is, exactly, that we do as appellate counsel. Nobody answered that question as well as the late Justice David Sills. “Appellate work is most assuredly not the recycling of trial level points and authorities.” For the rest of what he said, read this.