By Jed Scully
Master of the Kennedy Inn 1988
Professor of Law, McGeorge School of Law


The Sacramento legal community in the 1980s, paralleled those social and professional influences that led to the formation of the four English Inns of Court, eight hundred years earlier. While Sacramento is the Capitol of California, Sacramento based courts andtrial lawyers have traditionally operated in amore contained local professional environment.  

Twenty years ago, the local federal bench for the Eastern District of California numbered four active district judges and two magistrates. Judge Anthony Kennedy, was the sole member of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who maintained chambers in Sacramento.  There were about twenty five judges on the Superior Court trial bench and another ten on the California Court of Appeal for the 3rd Appellate District.  While there were as many as 1500 lawyers listed in the local telephone directory, no more than several hundred regularly practiced in the local courts.  There were no more than a half dozen medium sized firms of 20 to 40 lawyers.  Most lawyers practiced solo, or with several partners and associates.  Finally, there were two ABA accredited law schools; McGeorge in Sacramento, and the University of California, Davis located 15 miles to the Southwest toward San Francisco.  

This imprecise statistical abstract serves to demonstrate that Sacramento developed as a self contained legal and judicial community.  Most lawyers and judges knew one another personally and by reputation.  They had grown up together.  Most had gone to local schools, attended one of the University of California law schools, or McGeorge, and in a few cases Yale or Harvard.  The older of them had come to Sacramento after service in World War II.  Many of the younger ones either grew up here, and opened local practices after law school and marriage.  Others, after temporary service in appointed positions in state government were drawn to the small, close, family oriented community here, unlike the larger worlds of San Francisco or Los Angeles.

In a word, what bound the legal and judicial community together was a lawyer’s or judge’s reputation.  The legal community was small enough to be personal, collegial and willing to enforce standards of conduct and behavior that were more difficult of attainment in larger, urban environments.

But in the 1980’s the legal times were rapidly changing.  The ranks of post World War II legal veterans were thinning out.  There was surging demand for lawyers, not only to represent clients in Court, but as legislative and administrative representatives, and as counsel for land and economic development.

Any lawyer that has visited legal London is amazed at the intimacy of the Inns and the monastic, cloistered look of their premises.  This setting is reinforced by a lifelong affiliation with one of the four Inns of Court, first taken as a student, and continued forward as a barrister, after “taking silk” as a QC, and then after appointment to judicial office.

When Chief Justice Burger initiated the American Inns of Court movement, he had several goals in mind.  One was to establish a collegial mechanism for reinforcing and improving the quality of oral advocacy in the federal courts.  Another was to foster a spirit of collegiality among judges and lawyers so as to reinforce ethical standards and high levels of professional responsibility.

Sacramento’s legal community in the 1980’s embodied many of the values of the self contained English Inns.  But because Sacramento was changing and growing so rapidly, there was concern shared by the leaders of the legal community that the legal environment maintain the tradition of collegiality and public service built up over two practice generations following World War II.

Dean Gordon Schaber, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Kennedy, and Eastern District of California Judge Milton Schwartz, were three leaders of the legal community ideally positioned to see the potential of the American Inns of Court movement for Sacramento.  Gordon Schaber, after service as presiding judge of the Sacramento Superior Court, and over twenty years as Dean of McGeorge School of Law, saw the Inns as a vital link between the teaching and the practice of advocacy as a lifelong endeavor.   Judge Kennedy after appointment to the Court of Appeals, continued to teach Constitutional Law at McGeorge, and maintained his chambers and his personal and professional affiliations in Sacramento.  Judge Schwartz was appointed to the bench after long service as a named partner in Sacramento’s largest general trial firm.  He also taught criminal law as a faculty member at McGeorge, continuing a tradition of teaching and practice as complementary aspects of professional life.

The 1980’s also saw a significant increase in the teaching and practice of international and comparative law.  McGeorge established a collaborative relationship with the Inns of Court School of Law in London and our faculty and students became acquainted at first hand with the collegial environment of the English Inns.  Several English judges visited the law school’s “high table” to further develop our local interest in the Inns as a movement.  In 1985, the ABA’s annual meeting held most of its sessions in London in and around the Inns of Court.  One of its more memorable events, was the “retrial” of the Trial of William Penn, conducted in the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, which I was fortunate to attend. In addition, representatives of the American Inn of Court movement attended dinner and participated in moot court argument with members and Masters of the Bench of Middle Temple.  This experience encouraged the format for an Inns program which continues today – a collegial dinner followed by programs and “moots” designed to foster professional development and the maintenance of high ethical standards in practice.

The genesis of the American Inns of Court movement began in 1977, when United States Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace and a group of American lawyers and judges spent two weeks in England observing the English legal system.  Judge Wallace suggested that the Inns of Court system, as a professional qualification system for trial and appellate advocates, might be adapted in some way to American law practice.  Chief Justice Warren Burger endorsed the idea as a means of improving the practice of advocacy in the trial and appellate courts and a pilot program – an American “Inn” was established at Brigham Young University, in 1980, under the leadership of Rex E. Lee, then Dean of the law school and United States District Judge A. Sherman Christenson.  

In 1983, Chief Justice Burger formed a committee of the United States Judicial Conference to assess the experience of the seven American Inns “in sowing the seeds for improved trial advocacy,” and to promote the creation of more Inns with the “cooperation of judges, trial lawyers and law schools.”  In 1985, the American Inns of Court Foundation was established as the chartering and governing body for the American Inns movement.

It was virtually a given that the Sacramento legal, judicial and law school community would welcome the opportunity to affiliate with the burgeoning Inns of Court movement.

In early 1988, Gordon Schaber invited Judges Kennedy and Schwartz to luncheon along with Professor Bob O’Neal and myself, the two full time faculty responsible for teaching advocacy.  The subject was how best to establish a local Inn of Court, located at McGeorge, with membership drawn from the actively practicing Sacramento trial bar, and including both state and federal trial and appellate judges.  

Georgetown Law Professor Sherman Cohn, a former law clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger, had undertaken the task of organizing the American Inns of Court as a national movement, and was serving as President of the Inns of Court Foundation.  He suggested to Bob O’Neal that he, and I, along with Judge Milton Schwartz, who had agreed to serve as interim President of “Inn Number 48” attend a conference at Georgetown in order to present our credentials and seek a charter as a new Inn.  Judge Schwartz was not able to attend but O’Neal and I joined the Inn’s conference held at Georgetown Law School, organized by Professor Sherman Cohn, the American Inn’s Foundation president.  We reported back to our “Committee” that the establishment of an Inn would ensure the continuance of a strong spirit of law school, practitioner and judiciary collegiality and professionalism in our growing Sacramento legal community.  

Professor O’Neal, Judge Schwartz and Dean Schaber signed the application for a charter in April 1988, which Bob and I presented at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in June 1988. The charter application was accepted and we were known as American Inn of Court No 48.  At this point, Judge Kennedy was nominated for appointment to the United States Supreme Court.  Because of the pivotal role he played in establishing our Inn, now Justice Kennedy, agreed to continue his sponsorship of the Inn.

During the Spring and Summer 1988, recruitment of the initial group of judges and trial lawyers began.  President Milton Schwartz operated with an initial Executive Committee consisting of himself, Bob O’Neal, Forrest Plant, and myself.  We were later joined by Ann Taylor Schwing, Fred Morrison, and the late Bob Puglia.  Gordon Schaber pledged logistical and personnel support from McGeorge, and I agreed to serve as Secretary-Treasurer.  There were 41 charter members of the Kennedy Inn, organized in five pupilage groups, headed by Judges Sparks, Morrison, Ford, Lally and Schwartz.

The 12 initial Masters were Bill Shubb, Bill Wilson, Forrest Plant, Tom Couris, Dick Nichols, Mike Sands, Louise Gilbert, Joe Gennshlea, Ann Schwing, Art Ruthenbeck, Bob O’Neal and myself.

For our inaugural program in September 1988, we invited Judge William Enright, President of the Louis B. Welsh AIC in San Diego to demonstrate how their programs worked.  He presented a fascinating program on comparative cross-examination of a forensic anthropologist over the identification of bone fragments unearthed at the site of a plane crash toward the end of the Vietnam War.  “The Bones of Colonel Hart” was a dramatic, videotaped documentary, demonstrating excellent comparative advocacy, together with the discussion which followed.  We were offered a program format which we have adopted and improved on since our inception 18 years ago.

There have been substantial evolutionary changes in the Kennedy Inn over time.  Initially, lawyers were selected from the trial bar, with a substantial group of civil practice advocates.

There were no student members in the first years and only two Supernumeraries for a number of years.  Although there were judges on each team, team “leaders” or conveners were often other Masters, who had more resources and support services for the team’s program.  Only one member per “firm” was accepted and we had no provision for emeriti status.  

From the beginning, the Kennedy Inn was organized around the development and presentation of programs in which every member of each team in the Inn would have a specific role to play.  There were then, and are now no spectators or silent observers at our Inn’s programs.  There was no difficulty whatsoever in filling the ranks of the Inn.  The difficulty 15 years ago, as well as today, has been how to spread the Inn’s mission to the practicing, teaching and judicial communities in Sacramento, while retaining the Kennedy Inn small enough to allow full personal participation of our membership in each program.

Presently, there are about 80 active members organized into 8 pupilage teams.  We also have a large and growing number of emeriti members, and, regretfully, a significant number of applicants that cannot be accommodated with our present emphasis on personal participation by each member on each pupilage team.  The Kennedy Inn has helped to establish new Inns at University of California, Davis; in Modesto, and now in the formation stages a new Inn in Stockton.  The UC Davis Inn was named in honor of Judge Milton Schwartz, one of the founding members of the Kennedy Inn.

Professional and educational connections among the Kennedy Inn, McGeorge School of Law and the Inns of Court in London have been mutually beneficial.  For example, the Kennedy Inn accepted one of the first Pegasus Fellows, Bunmi Anwonyi, a barrister in Gray’s Inn, who spent a sabbatical period in various professional placements through the Kennedy Inn.  Some years later, Ms. Anwonyi, was admitted to the California Bar, and now is a Barrister in the Kennedy Inn, as well as a leader in the local family law trial courts.   Professors Bob O’Neal, Glendalee Scully, and I have taught professional skills at the Inns of Court during summer programs.  Glendalee Scully and I were invited to serve as consultants for the restructuring of professional training at the Inns of Court School of Law, incorporating insights gained from the American Inns movement.

One of our founders, Judge Milton Schwartz, served as the first President of the Inn. He was followed by Presiding Justice Robert K. Puglia, Justice Fred Morrison, Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland, Justice (and now 9th Circuit Judge) Consuelo Callahan and District Judge Morrison England.  Superior Court Judge James Mize has accepted a three year term as our next President. I am fortunate to continue as the sole remaining member of the founding committee establishing the Kennedy Inn, and I continue as an active member of my pupilage team.  Active Kennedy Inn Masters include Ann Taylor Schwing, now a board member of the American Inns of Court Foundation, who is a charter member of the Kennedy Inn, as is California Court of Appeals Justice Fred Morrison. 

There are a number of challenges which face the Kennedy Inn specifically, and perhaps the Inns of Court movement nationally.  Many of these changes involve the globalization of law practice and the movement away from trial and court oriented solutions under the rule of law, toward private and semi-public resolutions, conducted over digital distances in other cities and countries.  Advocacy and the original Inns of Court system depended on small numbers, geographically cloistered with intimate and personal knowledge of lawyers and judges.  Advocacy practice was personally delivered and argued.  

After our freshman year as an Inn, the Kennedy Inn moved away from a strict requirement that its members had to be actively practicing trial lawyers or judges.  Our Inn now represents a rainbow of Sacramento lawyers and their professional practices.  We have been less successful in managing the numbers who would like to affiliate with our Inn, with the necessity to keep the Inn small enough so that our programs are actively produced by each and every one of our members.  One solution is clearly to encourage additional Inns to form, and this we have done.  But our present membership is not able to engage in missionary activity which dilutes the emphasis on our present programs.

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the present size of the four English Inns of Court makes the regular presentation of “moots” and formal educational programs somewhat problematic. In fact, formal professional training was long ago turned over to the Inns of Court School of Law, which operated under the sponsorship of the four Inns and its Council for Legal Education.  The same global dynamics are at work in English legal practice as well.  Barristers no longer have a monopoly on rights of audience in the higher trial and appellate courts, and share those privileges with qualified solicitors.  Theoretically at least, advocates and practitioners from other European Union countries can also appear in the English Courts.

The Kennedy Inn as a part of the American Inns of Court movement continues to link law students, law professors, practicing lawyers and judges as part of a lifelong web for the maintenance of high ethical standards of behavior in maintaining the rule of law in Sacramento and wherever our clients happen to be located.

September 1, 2006