Former Chief Justice Roger Traynor, Tax Expert

Roger Traynor, chief justice of the California Supreme Court from 1964 to 1970, is one of the 10 2011 inductees to the California Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Traynor served on the state high court for 30 years, earning national respect.

A law and political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Traynor inaugurated Boalt Hall’s first course in taxation.

His expertise in taxation led the Legislature to seek his help in writing California’s modern tax law. He was a consultant to the Board of Equalization from 1932 to 1940 and to the U. S. Department of the Treasury from 1937 to 1940.

Traynor took a leave of absence from Berkeley to work fulltime for the board, helping implement California’s new sales tax and vehicle registration fees in 1933, the state’s income tax and the use tax in 1935 and the bank and corporations tax and fuel tax in 1937.

Despite no judicial experience, Traynor was nominated to the state supreme court by Gov. Culbert Olson in 1940.

Traynor wasn’t Olson’s first choice, however.

Olson initially tapped another Boalt Hall professor with no legal experience, Max Radin.

The Commission on Judicial Qualifications, a three-member panel composed of the chief justice, the senior judge of the courts of appeal and the attorney general had the final say on whether Radin would take a place on the court.

The Attorney General at the time, Earl Warren, was no fan of Olson – and would defeat him for governor two years later.

Radin was a leftist liberal. He had also criticized the prosecution of a case by Warren. Several of those Warren conivcted had been paroled by Olsen. 

Warren convinced John Nourse, the appellate justice, to reject Radin on the grounds his liberalism demonstrated a lack of judicial temperament.

Olson’s second – and successful – nominee was Traynor.

One of Traynor’s later colleagues on the high court also began his judicial career thanks to Olson.

In 1942, one of the lame duck Democratic governor’s “midnight appointments” was that of his executive secretary, Stanley Mosk, to the Los Angeles Superior Court. 


Filed under: California History

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment