The first sentence in the Preface to my book Wearing the Robe, which is the only “how to” book for judges that I am aware of, said “The best decision I ever made in my life was in choosing my parents.”  Of course, there was no such decision, but I could just as easily have been born to a single mother with AIDS in Zimbabwe.  Nevertheless, I think that this supreme benefit at my birth has given me a moral obligation to help those people who did not “choose” quite so well.  And in many ways I believe this has governed my life.

Elizabeth and Bill Gray were loving, stimulating, boundary-setting and interested parents.  And as New Year’s approaches, I always try to show my gratitude for them.  From an early age my sister Robin’s and my parents set up an atmosphere of learning and appreciation and, by giving us a weekly allowance of 25 cents from which was subtracted 5 cents for each time during the week that we didn’t make our beds before breakfast or feed our dog before 5:00 in the evening, they taught us to be responsible.  My father was a self-made man who put himself through UCLA and then Harvard Law School.  Thereafter he joined the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers until World War II started, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army’s Solicitor General’s Office.  After the war he founded his own law firm in Downtown Los Angeles, was elected President of the Los Angeles Bar Association in 1956 and the State Bar of California in 1962, and was one of the few Republicans appointed to the federal court by President Lyndon Johnson.  But all the while, he also found time to be a coach on my little league baseball teams – not easily done if one is in the legal profession.  And instead of preaching he led by example, such as simply asking me if I wanted to go with him while he donated blood to the Red Cross, or introducing me to some of the custodial staff at the Federal Courthouse, who would literally beam when he not only called them by name but also inquired about their children by name!  And my mother did such thoughtful things like garnishing our poached eggs at breakfast with bits of parsley, and driving me all over town during Christmastime so that I could perform with the Pasadena Boy Choristers.  In addition, she also taught us that, even though rules should be applied for everyone fairly, justice should be made to fit the situation.  So, for example, a few times that I was late feeding our dog Lucky and crept into the kitchen quietly to feed her, all the while knowing that Mom was in the den and could hear me, she never said anything about it.  And was Mom ever helpful?  If ever a challenge arose where we needed help, Mom would research it and drum it into us.  And practical?  As an example, we had a door in the den that would not easily fully latch.  So, since it swung into the den, we would have to let Lucky out to go into the back yard.  But Lucky was able to knock the door open from the outside to let herself back in.  Since it was a pain to close the door after her each time, Mom taught Lucky to close the door after herself by jumping against it.  Many times while we were eating dinner in the kitchen nook we would hear the door slam open.  Then there would be a 15 to 20 second delay (ostensibly while she was weighing the pros and cons), and then the door would slam shut – to notable praise from us all when Lucky came into the kitchen!  And our parents also took us on great vacations, the epitome being a trip to Europe in the summer between my 7th and 8th grades.  This taught me that there really was a big and exciting world out there, and that I could travel in it and have fun and learn from it!

So Happy New Year Mom and Dad!  May we all adopt resolutions to be as good at parenting as you both were!  And please once again accept my eternal thanks!  Love, Jim

Thought for the week: Many conflicts are caused by misunderstandings or misinterpretations, such as a woman who was visibly upset, talking to a police officer and pointing to Santa Claus, saying “He called me a Ho three times!”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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