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Annual Meeting features dramatic duel as justices reenact tragedy

State Bar Annual Meeting logoIt’s not often that California’s Supreme Court justices can be seen dueling with pistols at dawn. But the State Bar’s Annual Meeting Sept. 11-14 in San Diego will feature colorful performances from the justices – all in the name of theater and history.

An early morning drama launches the Friday Sept. 12 schedule promptly at 8 a.m. with, “Chief Justice David S. Terry and Federalism: A Life and a Doctrine in Three Acts,” a re-enactment of the historical events that surrounded former California Chief Justice David S. Terry, including the 1859 duel that led to the death of his rival, U.S. Sen. David Colbreth Broderick.

David Terry

Terry was notorious for his fierce temper and violent outburts towards his political rivals. Not only did he kill Broderick, but Terry stabbed another man with a Bowie knife a few months before the duel. After Broderick’s death, Terry assaulted a U.S. Supreme Court justice, an attack that later led to Terry’s fatal shooting by the justice’s bodyguard.

The play also explores Terry’s tumultuous representation and later marriage to Sarah Althea Hill, an equally controversial figure in history.

Script author Dr. Richard H. Rahm called Terry "perhaps California’s most colorful member of the judiciary." The re-enactment explores the relationship between individual states and federal government after the birth of the republic. "We explore the very concrete ways federalism affected Terry both before and after the Civil War," Rahm said.

Present-day members of the state Supreme Court will be on hand to discuss not only the legal issues at play in Terry’s life, but as members of the cast.

The playbill features Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter, Associate Justice Ming Chin, Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Associate Justice Goodwin Liu and U. S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns.

The drama will be narrated by State Bar CEO Joseph L. Dunn and Rahm, who is also a member of the board of directors of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society. The event includes 1.25 hours of minimum continuing legal education credit.

Attendance is limited to those who pre-register for the Annual Meeting by Aug. 13. Attendees are urged to come to the breakfast event as early as 7:15 a.m. For a list of other special events and continuing legal education sessions, see the Annual Meeting schedule.