Profiles: Walter Gorelick
Superior Court Judge, Tulare County
A Lifelong Learner on the Bench
When Judge Walter Gorelick was a student at Golden Gate School of Law, he still thought he could help solve problems in society. He has learned, during a lifetime of law practice, that there is no panaceanothing will solve every problem completely. Nevertheless, Judge Gorelick always wanted to make a difference, and he has done so, serving the community in Tulare County as a public defender and as a judge since 1971. Walters special interest in criminal law led him to his first job in the Public Defenders Office in Tulare County. He was one of the first lawyers to be certified as a criminal-law specialist by the California State Board of Legal Specialization, in 1977.
Upon elevation to the bench, Judge Gorelick observed that as a judge one must "try to be fair to all the parties that come before you, listen carefully to the arguments that both sides are presenting, and try to reach an informed and fair decision." By contrast, lawyers advocate for a particular position. Administering justice requires helping people change their lives. "I can simply give all these court orders to people, but there are so many who come in here that need monitoring and encouragement." He and his colleague, Judge Glade F. Roper, were assigned to handle the large number of substance-and domestic-abuse cases in Tulare County. He is proud to be one of the judges who ran a specialized program to help people with drug-abuse problems.
Judge Gorelick also puts time into talking to the lawyers who appear in his courtroom. He has learned a lot in his courtroom and because of that he really knows the law. "He is patient and considerate. Thats what makes him a great teacher," says Rubinger. Another attorney, Joyce Frazier, who also has practiced in the Tulare County Public Defenders Office, has appeared in the Gorelick courtroom since 1987. "Hes his own best law clerk in the county," she says. "He finds all those obscure laws. He may not be the quickest for sentencing, but his analysis covers all the legal aspects of his rulings, and he makes a good record of all the proceedings."
As with many who have amassed a lifetime of knowledge and inherited a mission for teaching, Walter Gorelick is a widely published legal author. His books, all published by Tule Legal Press, include Summary of California Drug Cases and California Search and Seizure Cases; Summary of DUI Cases seventh edition; California Preliminary Hearing Courtroom Handbook fifth edition, and Summary of California Criminal Evidence and Trial Cases fifth edition. (Judge Gorelick graciously donated a copy of his two-volume, Summary of California Criminal Evidence and Trial Cases fifth edition, to the Golden Gate University Law Library.)
In his personal life, Walter thinks it may be time to plan to do some traveling and to give something back, something even beyond his four decades of public service, and to his law school alma mater. As part of his estate planning he has established criminal-law scholarships at GGU Law for students interested in practicing criminal law.