Joe Lodge was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1932. His father was a businessman, his mother a piano teacher. There were no lawyers in his family, but he decided as a teenager that he wanted to become one. His father wanted him to go into the family business, while his mother supported him in his desire to go away to college. His mother prevailed.
Joe got his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and his law degree, at the University of Michigan. After clerking at a U.S. Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, Joe made a trip to Santa Barbara.
There were no attorneys in Goleta at the time, UCSB had recently moved to its present campus, and Joe wanted to be part of a university community. In 1956, at age 24, he opened his first office on Hollister Avenue. It was truly a country lawyer’s office, including Windsor chairs and a pot-bellied stove for heat. If anyone in the adjoining office needed to use the toilet, they had to come through Joe’s office.
The then-judge of the Goleta-Hope Ranch Judicial District (population 12,000) was planning to retire. He took a liking to Joe and urged him to run for the judgeship. Joe decided that walking door-to-door to introduce himself to the voters in the district would be good both for his practice and for the election. It was the first door-to-door campaign in this area. At age 26, Joe became the second youngest judge in California history.
The next year he began teaching part-time at UCSB. He loved the contact with the students, and the students loved him. Some became cherished friends.
Aaron was born to Joe and his wife Marilyn in 1959. In 1960, the couple divorced. Joe and I married in 1961. Joe and I had our first child, Amy, in 1964. She was so great that we had a second child, Helen, in 1966. Joe was a playful and humorous father, who delighted in his children and helped in their care.
By 1964, the Goleta-Hope Ranch Judicial District had grown to a population of 40,000. State law required that it become a municipal court, so the Santa Barbara Municipal Court was expanded to include the justice court, and Joe became a Municipal Court Judge. Joe was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1988, the same year he became a Superior Court Judge as a result of court consolidation. As he approached his 50th year on the bench, he said, “People are going to wonder that this fellow couldn’t get another line of work.”
There were two times when Joe thought he’d probably lose his job in the next election. The first was when he got a phone call from T.M. Storke, the editor, publisher, and owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Storke wanted to talk to Joe about his daughter’s traffic ticket. Although he didn’t directly ask that it be “fixed,” it was clear he expected Joe to do something about it. When Joe hung up, he turned to me and said, “Well, there goes the judgeship.”
The second time was in June 1970. A bank was burned in Isla Vista as part of a Vietnam War protest, and several days of disturbances brought out Sheriffs from Los Angeles who indiscriminately beat and tear-gassed students. In protest of the police actions, hundreds of students and some faculty members deliberately violated the curfew in a peaceful sit-in in Perfect Park. Police moved in, arrested about 350 people, and took them to jail. Some of the students were treated brutally, and women were maced in their cells just for talking.
When the protesters were brought before him, Joe carefully listened to the District Attorney and gave him every opportunity to make his points. Joe then dismissed all of the 350 cases, believing that the protesters had been punished enough.
For most judges, being a judge is what they do. For Joe, being a judge was what he was. Yet he was not judgmental. He’d done it for so long he had a different perspective. What was best for the defendant? How could he get to him or her and help them straighten out their lives? What was best for society?
Joe was able to teach only four classes this quarter, yet in that short time he deeply touched his students. Some of their comments were: “I feel I am a better person for having met him.” “J.L. was an awesome, entertaining, and brilliant teacher.” “Best teacher ever!”
Always curious, he wanted to know what made people the way they are and the world what it is. His interests ranged from politics, to poetry, to physics, to psychiatry and well beyond.
Our family gatherings were enlivened and enriched by his presence and will never be the same. In 2002, he had the great pleasure of swearing in his son as a member of the California Bar.
To the end of his days, he relished his opportunity to see the parade of life and to play a part in the process. He did it with wit, respect, intelligence, thoughtfulness, compassion, and unwavering interest.
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Sheila Lodge served as the mayor of Santa Barbara from 1981 to 1993.