Judge of the Municipal Court for the Oakland-Piedmont
(now Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville) Judicial District
(1964 – 1975)
Judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County
(1975 – 1981)
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the
State of California (1981 – 1991)
The Supreme Court of California convened in the
courtroom of the Marathon Plaza Building, 303
Second Street, South Tower, 4th Floor, San Francisco,
California, on May 7, 1997, at 9:00 a.m.
Present: Chief Justice Ronald M. George, presiding,
and Associate Justices Mosk, Kennard, Baxter,
Werdegar, Chin, and Brown.
Officers present: Robert F. Wandruff, Clerk;
George Rodgers, Walter Grabowski and Harry Kinney,
CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE:
Good morning. We meet this morning to honor Justice
Allen E. Broussard, who served with great distinction
as an Associate Justice of this court from July
1981, through August 1991. I would first like
to introduce the members of the court. Starting
at my far left, Justice Brown, Justice Werdegar,
and Justice Kennard. To my immediate right is
Justice Mosk and to his right is Justice Baxter
and then Justice Chin. On behalf of the court,
I wish to welcome Justice Broussard’s wife,
Odessa, his sons, his sister, and other friends.
I did not have the honor of serving with Justice
Broussard during his tenure on the Supreme Court.
In fact, I was appointed to fill the position
vacated by him upon his retirement. I did, however,
have the great pleasure and honor of knowing Justice
Broussard for many years. My appointment to the
Supreme Court, 10 years after his, echoed my service
as President of the California Judges Association,
10 years after his in 1972. Throughout his tenure
on the bench, he displayed a dedication to the
judicial branch and to improving and enhancing
its service to the people of California.
Justice Broussard’s departure from the Supreme
Court can hardly be described as retirement. He
did not even pause to slow down. Instead, he continued
to serve his community, the legal system, and
the courts on a number of fronts. One role, in
particular, kept him in contact with the Supreme
Court and the judicial council — his position
as co-chair of the Judicial Council’s Committee
on Race and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. As a member
of the Judicial Council, while serving as an Associate
Justice, and as Chair of the council after becoming
Chief Justice, I was very grateful for his hard
work and invaluable contributions in this important
Justice Broussard’s contributions to the
law live on in other ways as well. He will continue
to be remembered not only for his intelligent
and well-reasoned opinions, but also in the hearts
and lives of the many young lawyers who worked
with him and whom he continued to mentor long
after they and he had left the court.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Associate Justice
Joyce Kennard, who will speak on behalf of our
JUSTICE KENNARD: Thank
you, Chief Justice George, for inviting me to
offer some brief remarks in memory of Justice
Allen Broussard, whose legal scholarship and dedication
to the cause of justice graced this court for
10 years until his retirement in 1991.
Last November, at the age of 67, in the rich evening
of his life, Justice Broussard succumbed to cancer,
which struck suddenly and swiftly.
An English proverb says that death always comes
too early or too late. For Justice Broussard,
my friend and colleague, death came too early.
To borrow a phrase from Robert Green Ingersoll,
“While yet in love with life and raptured
with the world, he passed to silence.” Left
behind in numbing sorrow was his close-knit and
loving family: his mother, Eugenia Broussard;
his sister, Rita Broussard; his brother, James
Broussard; his wife, Odessa, who was the love
of his life; and his two sons, Craig and Keith,
of whom he was so proud. He once described his
family as “my greatest blessing.”
His sudden passing has left a pain, a void. Never
again will we hear his laughter, never again will
we hear his voice. But we will always have the
memories, fond and precious memories. Through
these memories, the flame of Allen Broussard’s
spirit will burn eternally, reminding generations
to come of the great legacy left by this great
jurist and great man, the second African-American
justice to serve on the California Supreme Court.
In the words of Samuel Butler, “To die completely,
a person must . . . be forgotten, and he who is
not forgotten is not dead.” Allen Broussard
will never be forgotten. His penetrating legal
analysis will continue to offer us wise counsel
through the many opinions he authored for the
court. And the deep humanity that Allen brought
to every endeavor will also live on.
From humble beginnings, Allen Broussard rose to
high office. He was born on April 13, 1929, in
Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1945, when Allen was
16, he and his family moved to California, in
search of greater opportunity. His father worked
as a longshoreman, and his mother as a seamstress.
Young Allen had part-time jobs ranging from shoe
selling to canning to help pay for his education,
first at San Francisco City College, then UC Berkeley,
and later Boalt Hall School of Law.
Allen never forgot his roots. Even at the height
of his career, he remained down to earth, always
mindful of the plight of the poor, the weak, the
disadvantaged. Through his compassion, kindness
and generosity, he touched the lives of many,
many people. Those lucky enough to know him well
undoubtedly shared a bowl of gumbo with him.
As I found out at the memorial service for Allen
last November, no reminiscence, no memory of him
is complete without a gumbo story. This morning,
I have such a story to tell. Without doubt, this
is the first time that the proceedings before
this court pertain to the issue of gumbo, Louisiana
Broussard gumbo to be precise. Up there, Allen
must be chuckling.
Allen’s mastery of gumbo cooking is legendary.
But I did not know that when I came to the court
in April 1989. A few months after my arrival,
Elliott Williams, the court’s first African-American
bailiff, who is now retired, did something very
nice for me: he made a huge pot of homemade gumbo
and brought it into my chambers, enough to feed
two dozen people. When Allen stopped by for a
taste, and I raved over Elliott’s gumbo,
Allen said only, “Wait till you taste mine.”
He then left.
The Broussard gumbo day came shortly after the
October 1989 earthquake, which severely damaged
our court building in the Civic Center. Allen
invited Elliott and me into his makeshift chambers,
where the desk was laid out with china, silver,
and linen napkins. Anyone else would have simply
provided Styrofoam bowls, paper napkins, and plastic
utensils. But Allen always did things his way,
Those of you who knew Allen well know that he
liked his food hot, very hot. He encouraged Elliott
and me to generously use some special Louisiana
Broussard seasoning. We did, and soon reached
for water to quench the fire within us. But the
gumbo was indeed most delicious. Allen had made
his point: he was a gumbo master chef.
Through this brief remembrance I have tried to
recapture a wee bit of the spirit of Allen Broussard,
a man of extraordinary kindness, thoughtfulness,
generosity, and warmth. In a word, he had soul.
This is what drew people to him, as exemplified
by the more than 1000 persons who attended his
memorial service at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.
We came to say good-bye to a splendid man, whose
brilliance and sensitivity as a jurist added lustre
to this court. It was an honor to have been his
friend and colleague.
CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE:
Thank you very much, Justice Kennard. It is now
my pleasure to introduce retired Court of Appeal
Justice Harry Low, who was a long-time friend
of Justice Broussard. The two of them served together
on many committees designed to improve the administration
of justice in our state.
JUSTICE LOW: Mr. Chief
Justice Ronald M. George, distinguished Associate
Justices of the Supreme Court, Mrs. Odessa Broussard,
Keith, Craig, family, friends and colleagues of
Justice Allen Broussard.
As he gazes down on this memorial service, I can
almost hear Allen's hearty cackle and feel his
smile, chuckling, "Now make it good, Harry,
and make it a celebration."
Allen Broussard's distinguished legal career spanned
more than 40 years. He served 10 years as an Associate
Justice of this Supreme Court, from 1981 to 1991.
He liked to refer to himself as a "triple
Brownie"--appointed to the Oakland-Piedmont
Municipal Court by Governor Pat Brown in 1964,
elevated to the Alameda County Superior Court
in 1975 by Governor Jerry Brown and then appointed
to the California Supreme Court in 1981 by Governor
I met Allen when I entered law school in 1952.
Allen was a third year student, vice-president
of the Boalt Hall Law Students Association and
one of the few minority students at Boalt. He
was a member of the editorial staff of the California
Law Review and his scholarship and activities
got just about every students' attention. He was
the first African-American at Boalt ever admitted
to the Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity and his
membership almost caused the local PAD chapter
to be removed from the then-antiquated national
organization. A1 Broussard and the Boalt chapter
took a principled stand and successfully challenged
the national law fraternity. Right away, I knew
he was the kind of person I could learn from;
and I did for the next 40-plus years.
After graduation in 1953 and a two-year service
in the United States Army, Allen served as the
research attorney for Presiding Justice Raymond
Peters. It was there that he first enjoyed the
accommodations of the fourth floor of the State
Building at 350 McAllister Street. He saw the
work of trial and appellate judges, and probably
concluded, "I could do that." Indeed
he could and he did it very well.
He practiced law for the next eight years in partnership
with outstanding practioners such as Clinton White,
Lionel Wilson, Wilmont Sweeney and Carl Metoyer.
Justice White and Judges Wilson and Sweeney are
respected jurists and Lionel Wilson was later
Mayor of Oakland. Carl Metoyer is a highly regarded
lawyer in Oakland. One can imagine the pleasures
he shared in the practice of law with such fine
colleagues, not just as professionals in the law,
but as persons who were very active in the civic
life of the Bay Area. The late 1950’s and
early '60’s were also a time when politics
was fun--and his firm took an active part.
In 1956, Allen was chairman of a civic organization--Men
of Tomorrow--and he wanted publicity for this
new group. He called on the program director of
radio station KSAN and charmed her into giving
free air time to his budding group. Always the
flirt, Allen won a date with Odessa, the program
director. Allen married the love of his life,
Odessa, in 1959. He became the proud father of
their sons Keith and Craig, both graduates of
the University of California. Odessa was the ideal
wife, compassionate, supportive, understanding;
she was also always a reality check on Allen's
more idealistic pursuits.
Allen was always deeply committed to his family
and participated in the education and the outside
activities of his boys, biking, music, school
projects, and everything else. Then he would do
a typical Allen Broussard thing, decide to leave
mom home, take a few days off with the boys and
hit every big roller coaster ride in the state.
Allen was also the son who was close to his parents
and very supportive of his brother and sister.
At every chance he would give credit for his success
to his father Clemire and mother Eugenia Broussard.
It is quite natural that Allen was very close
to his sons. Son Keith has developed software
at Hewlett-Packard for the last 10 years. Keith
also produces training films for H-P staff and
teaches fellow employees all around the world.
Son Craig is a creative city planner, musician
and artist, who is on the staff of the Oakland
City Planning Department.
Almost from the start of Allen's judicial career,
he was active in judicial education and was a
popular lecturer and panelist at judicial conferences.
In 1972 he was the first African-American to be
elected President of the California Judges Association
and later became Chairman of the Board of the
Center for Judicial Education and Research. He
also served on the California Commission on Judicial
Performance, the California Judicial Council,
and the Board of Governors of the National Judicial
College in Reno, Nevada, and is one of the founders
of the Charles Houston Bar Association, in which
he remained active throughout his career. Allen
went on to take an active role in the American
Bar Association and was the Chair of the Judicial
Administration Division's Taskforce on Opportunities
for Minorities in the Profession. We would chuckle
over our involvement in the ABA, because when
Allen graduated from law school in 1953, the ABA
still had a policy limiting or refusing admission
to minorities. But Allen never dwelled on the
past or on things negative. In the 1980’s
he saw how important it was for minorities to
be active in the legal profession and to participate
in a national organization. Allen devoted a great
deal of time to the ABA.
Justice Broussard truly enjoyed being a judge
and was proud of the judiciary. He enjoyed working
with people and probably held more staff meetings
than most other justices. He joked with the clerks,
the secretaries and others in the courthouse.
Allen felt a duty to be a teacher to his externs
and research attorneys; he also had more externs
than other justices, sometimes as many as six
at any given time, and was a role model, especially
for minority law students. Allen shared his Lake
Charles, Louisana hospitality with staff at parties
in his home where he cooked the Cajun gumbo for
which he was famous, claiming his spicy gumbo
brought out the best in his staff. Allen Broussard
brought out the best in everyone. His chambers
were an open door to anyone, even the staff of
other justices. He acted like a "judicial
therapist" where you could get a happy thought
and a good legal opinion in one session.
Everyone who has worked with Allen would describe
him as a nice person, always a gentleman--an intelligent
diplomat. Allen was probably an ideal justice
for the California Supreme Court during the 1980’s
when the Supreme Court was in transition. For
the first five years he was a close associate
to Chief Justice Rose Bird and helped in the management
of the California judiciary. He wrote many of
the majority opinions for the court. In 1987 when
the Supreme Court added three new members and
was led by Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, Allen
Broussard often wrote dissenting opinions; but
he was always the diplomat, he was never derogatory.
He maintained his ideals yet kept a friendly,
collegial relationship with all the members of
Of course the test of calm leadership is how one
responds in a crisis. When the Loma Prieta earthquake
in 1989 shook the old State Building on McAllister
Street, Allen was meeting with his staff. His
office was decorated with African sculptures,
shields and spears. When Allen dove under his
desk, most of his staff followed. They squeezed
into that tiny knee space and under the tables.
The African spears and art fell about them, adding
to the chaos. Allen passed the test. He got his
staff out of the building and on their way home.
But, he later admitted, he was one frightened
Throughout Allen's judicial career, he maintained
an active role in the community. He had served
on hospital boards, the East Bay Community Foundation
Board, Big Brothers, Council for Civic Unity,
the United Nations Association and numerous other
civic and charitable bodies. When he retired from
the Supreme Court in 1991, it was quite natural
that he would agree to serve on the Oakland Port
Commission, to chair the Union Bank of California's
Community Policy Advisory Board, and would continue
to serve Boalt Hall and the California and federal
judicial system in a variety of roles. He continued
to collect honors from his law school, his university,
the legal profession, the community, thoroughly
enjoying them all.
After he left the judiciary, Allen accepted the
position on the Oakland Port Commission and part
of the attraction was his opportunity to call
on ports around the world, especially those in
Asia. In 1987, Allen and Odessa, led a group of
72 judges, lawyers, former legislators and city
officials on a 3-week tour of China. In 1987 China
was still used to having orderly delegations with
the head of the delegation leading the group.
But with this mix of independent personalties,
it would be hard to keep a regimented group. Allen
knew it was best to just let everyone have a good
time. It was one of the best trips I even have
taken because Allen set the pace. He was a judicial
statesman when it was called for, a consumer of
great banquets at every occasion, a good dancer
and always a lively conversationalist and gracious
guest. Because of our ties to the San Francisco
Bay Area, several of us spent time with Mayor
Jiang Zemen, then Mayor of Shanghai, a sister
city to San Francisco. Allen struck a friendship
immediately. We have maintained some contact with
the former mayor, who is now the President of
China. I think that Allen might have been appointed
to be on China's Supreme Court had he wanted--or
at least on the Shanghai or Beijing Port Commission!
The trip opened Allen's appetite for travel and
expanded his desire to learn of other cultures
and countries. Seeing China was an opportunity
to see an ancient civilization trying to modernize;
in 1987 change was everywhere and he commented
on the contrasts in the economy, the government
and the different social system. He was fascinated
and we all had a good time.
After his "retirement,” Allen maintained
an active practice with Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe
and Breyer and with the American Arbitration Association.
Always looking ahead and seeing how he might make
things better, just before he got very sick, he
was telling me how as Chairman of the Community
Policy Advisory Board of Union Bank of California,
we could help reshape the banking and financial
world to better serve the underserved.
Allen Broussard will be best remembered for the
enthusiasm and enjoyment of everything he did.
He made friends quickly; even those who were with
him only a brief period of time, especially his
clerk-interns, were among his most loyal admirers.
He was an inspiration to all those who worked
with him. His kindness and genuine honesty made
him a valued addition to any office or committee.
One of his partners at the Coblentz firm where
Allen spent his final days in the law profession
said it well: "Allen's biggest contribution
to the firm was simply, himself. As in every other
facet of his life, Allen always reached out to
help, to comfort, to listen or to share a laugh
with us. We remember him for his humanity, his
fairness, his wit and his unflagging optimism."
So do we all remember Allen.
That Allen left us at the early age of 67 is cause
for mourning, but his having been our friend is
indeed a cause for rejoicing. Thank you Allen.
Thank you Mr. Chief Justice.
CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE:
Thank you very much, Justice Low. I would now
like to introduce Mr. Robert Harris, a long-time
friend and colleague on the Port Commission.
MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chief
Justice and Members of the Court
May it please the Court:
Today is especially important to me because it
presents an opportunity to comment on a mentor,
a friend, and a statesman.
In my lifetime, I have had the honor of knowing
many great persons, but I can think of no person
greater to have known than Justice Allen E. Broussard.
Allen had a profound and lasting impact not just
on me, but on countless men and women throughout
He was unique in many ways. A courageous, self-made
man, Allen struggled for every inch of each milestone
of his illustrious career. Yet, he never once
forgot neither his roots nor those who pushed
him toward greatness. Too frequently there is
a tendency on the part of some people to deny
their heritage and ignore their background. With
Al, this was not the case. He was very proud of
his heritage and background. More importantly,
he seized every possible opportunity to reach
back to help others. His commitment to the NAACP,
the Mentor Center, and many other groups earned
him the respect of the entire community. In other
words, he gave of himself unconditionally.
As a young lawyer, I had the opportunity of meeting
Al over 25 years ago. His commitment to, and interest
in, the growth and development of African-Americans
in the legal profession was legendary. He always
took time to counsel and guide us even when we
didn't solicit his counsel or guidance.
A strong supporter of the Charles Houston Bar
Association from its inception in 1955, Al, until
his untimely death, remained an active and visible
member as he climbed the judicial ladder. His
mere presence, with his usual gracious manner,
served to motivate and inspire members of the
Charles Houston Bar Association. He was inducted
into the Charles Houston Bar's Hall of Fame.
I recall clearly the first conference of the California
Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) in Los Angeles
in 1977, Al was there not just in body, but as
a contributing member helping us to fashion a
vision for CABL to ensure its future success.
Two decades later, CABL, to a significant extent,
endures because Al Broussard was willing to anchor
his prestige in its foundation. He, along with
Justice Clinton White, Judge Benjamin Travis,
and others, were the "winds beneath our wings."
Around the nation, especially as a member of the
Judicial Council of the National Bar Association,
Al touched the lives of many lawyers and judges.
He was the consummate role model. He inspired
and motivated others to search for greatness and
justice. When he spoke, silence encircled the
audience, which cherished each word he spoke.
For those of us from the Bay Area who have served
as presidents of the National Bar Association,
we owe a special debt of gratitude to Justice
Broussard. Tom Broome, Jim Cole and I, as past
presidents of the National Bar Association, know
full well that were it not for giants like Al,
who were willing to embrace us, we would not have
been elected to lead the National Bar Association.
On a personal level, let me say that both Al and
Odessa have been dear and personal friends to
me. Odessa, in particular, must be commended for
her willingness to share Al's time with others.
I know that such sharing reduced the time available
for Al to be with his beloved family. Clearly,
it decreased his available time to spend with
his sons Keith and Craig. For this sharing, we
remain forever indebted not only to Odessa, but
also to Craig and Keith.
I knew Allen in many different roles and in each
he was the epitome of excellence. As my brother
in Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, he not only sponsored
me into the fraternity, but gave me and others
sage advice on many different issues. His leadership
in the fraternity was bold and decisive both locally
and nationally. At the time of his death, he was
national chair of the Constitution and By-Laws
Committee of the fraternity.
Whenever and wherever duty beckoned, Al was simply
incapable of saying no. Such was the case when
he received a telephone call from Oakland Mayor
Elihu Harris asking him to serve as a commissioner
of the Port of Oakland. Predictably, Al accepted
and, of course, rapidly distinguished himself
as a leader of the Board of Port Commissioners,
and was elected last July as President of the
Today, I am fortunate to have been selected to
serve out the remainder of Allen's term on the
Port Commission. My fellow Oakland Port Commissioners,
the Port staff and I marvel at the outstanding
contributions Allen made to the Port of Oakland.
His commitment, dedication, acumen and capable
leadership enhanced the Port's mission.
Finally, today we celebrate the life of a unique
individual. We celebrate the life of a man who
understood that justice does not automatically
shine on all people, but rather must be carefully
focused into those dark corners where it rarely
It was, to be sure, Allen's sensitivity to inequities
in the very system he loved so much which guided
his passion for equal justice under law. This
state and, indeed, this nation, beyond any reasonable
doubt, are better places to live because a man
named Allen E. Broussard not only sat on this
High Court but pushed and agitated relentlessly
for equality under law. Yes, we will miss Al greatly,
but we take great pride in knowing that his spirit
is firmly anchored not only in the walls of this
Court, but throughout the terrain of this nation.
Let me leave you with the response of Allen when
he was asked why he wanted to be a lawyer. His
response says it all:
"I felt I could make a difference in the
lives of people."
CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE:
Thank you very much, Mr. Harris.
I want to thank again all those who have contributed
their special and memorable remarks to this morning’s
In accordance with our custom, it is ordered that
this memorial be spread in full upon the minutes
of the Supreme Court and published in the Official
Reports of the opinions of this court, and that
a copy of these proceedings be sent to Mrs. Broussard.
(Derived from Supreme Court minutes and 15