In a special ceremonial session of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Pasadena, California, President Howard W. Hunter was honored for fifty years of service to the court.
President Hunter, who graduated cum laude with a degree in law from Southwestern University, was “overwhelmed” at the honor.
“I thought I was coming to visit a judge of the Ninth Circuit at his invitation,” President Hunter told his lawyer friends and associates gathered for the ceremony. “I was overwhelmed when I saw all of you here and to think that you have given up much to be here.
“It’s true that I have an interest in the law—a deep interest,” President Hunter continued. “I haven’t actually practiced as a lawyer for a few years now—not since I was called to serve in Church administration. But I still think of those days that were precious to me in the courtroom and with clients.
“What a great thing it is to have the privilege of being personal counsel to people who have needed legal help. I so much admire all of you here who are engaged in the business of the law and … those things which pertain to legal justice and which pertain to the code of ethics that was drilled into us in law school and which we all know are correct principles.”
Judge J. Clifford Wallace, one of three robed federal court judges attending the session, presented President Hunter with a certificate commemorating the fifty-year milestone. Judge Wallace commented on President Hunter’s “exemplary service to his clients in the highest traditions of our profession.”
“A call to serve a higher law interrupted his professional life,” Judge Wallace continued. “The loss to our bar was compensated for by his dedicated service as one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But he has never lost his interest in the law and the profession. His keen lawyerlike analysis can be discerned in his gifted sermons. His legal problem-solving talent has not lessened—it is applied in decision-making and instructions given in his current responsibilities.”
President Hunter, who at age twenty-seven decided to pursue a law degree, graduated in 1939 and was admitted to the bar of the court on 8 April 1940. When he was called to the Council of the Twelve in October 1959, he was a respected Los Angeles attorney. During those years, and in the decades that followed, he has influenced many.
“President Hunter has stood as a highly visible example to all of the lawyers and law students who know him or know of him—and they number in the tens of thousands,” observed John S. Welch, a Los Angeles attorney who spoke at the session. “He epitomizes the practice of law in the classic style: honor, ethical conduct, courtesy, gentility, the art of making the adversarial system work while sticking to the rules, and—though I list it last, I think of it as a component of first importance—integrity. …
“He loves the law in its grand tradition. He loves it in its broadest concepts, including the civil law and the spiritual, both of which are so much a part of his life. I doubt that there has ever been any attempt in his own mind to compartmentalize the two or that he has ever seen any need to do so.”
Other speakers at the session were Leigh Taylor, dean of the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles; Henry Shields, a representative of the bar of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and President Hunter’s son, John, a judge in the Ventura County Municipal Court.