Born: Thursday, January 5th, 1905
Died: Saturday, March 25th, 1989
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Education: University of Washington, B.A. (1925)
University of Washington, LL.B. (1927)
Oxford University, B.A. (1929); M.A. (1952)
Career: Court of Appeals (1969-1974)
Served: Monday, January 13th, 1975 to Wednesday, December 31st, 1980
Political Party: DemocratFew persons have brought more impressive credentials to the supreme court than Charles Horowitz. His outstanding educational, professional, civic, and scholarly accomplishments proved instrumental in his selection as a judge and contributed to his effectiveness on the bench. He was born on January 5, 1905 in Brooklyn, New York, eldest of five children of Harry and Fanny Horowitz. The elder Horowitz arrived in America the year before from Tsarist Russia and worked as a cloth cutter in New York’s garment district. He later became a tailor. Charles Horowitz spent his earliest childhood in the tenement district of lower east side Manhattan. The family moved to Seattle in 1913 when Charles was eight years old.
Horowitz attended public schools in Seattle, selling papers and delivering magazines after class to help with family expenses. In the evening he sold candy at a Seattle movie theater. During the summer he worked at fruit and vegetable stands, mowed lawns, and helped a roofing contractor. His earnings also assisted with his college education after Horowitz entered the University of Washington at the age of seventeen. He earned Phi Beta Kappa honors and graduated magna cum laude in 1925.
Hoping to make law his career, Horowitz went immediately to the University of Washington School of Law, graduating in 1927 with summa cum laude honors. He served as editor-in-chief of the Washington Law Review and wrote several of the Review’s first law notes. His law school record and general scholarly accomplishments led to a coveted three-year Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University where he completed his studies in two years, earning a B.A. degree in jurisprudence with first-class honors in 1929. In 1952 he returned to earn a master’s degree from the prestigious English institution.
Horowitz’s professional career, spanning nearly a half century, was equally impressive. Horowitz passed the Washington bar in 1927 and upon returning from England joined the law firm of Preston, Thorgrimson, and Turner where he became a full partner in 1933. He lectured frequently at the University of Washington and served on the Washington Uniform Legislation Commission for a number of years, assuming the chairmanship in 1964. Horowitz also chaired the joint editorial board of the uniform probate code, which had the responsibility for periodically updating the code. Earlier, as co-chairman of the special national probate committee, he had prime responsibility for writing the code. A member of the American Law Institute, he also served as president of the Seattle Bar Association in 1957-1958. He chaired the citizens’ advisory committee to the Joint Interim Committee on Facilities and Operations of the Washington state legislature which studied legislative reform. He later became a trustee of the American Bar Foundation and belonged to the American Judicature Society. In recognition of his professional activities, his colleagues in the state bar honored him with their Award of Merit in 1962.
Although a life-long Democrat, Charles Horowitz was not especially active in partisan politics. However, a continuing interest in public issues extended back to childhood days and the experiences of his father in the early years of labor strife in the garment industry. Although Horowitz strongly advocated labor unions, in his law practice he handled mostly civil matters and on occasion acted as a court-appointed attorney for criminal defendants. He developed a special interest in probate and estate planning.
In 1968 the Washington legislature proposed, and the voters ratified, a constitutional amendment providing an intermediate court of appeals responsible for much of the appellate work then burdening the supreme court. According to an agreement with the legislature, Republican Governor Dan Evans would appoint twelve judges, at least four being Democrats. He selected Horowitz as one.
Evans based his choice largely on Horowitz’s professional reputation, labor support, and bar activities. Subsequently, Horowitz won election to the appeals bench in 1970 and reelection in 1972, both times unopposed.
Judge Horowitz had seriously contended for an appointment to the state’s high bench only a year after assuming court of appeals’ responsibilities. In October 1971, Justice Morell Sharp was nominated to the federal district court bench and Horowitz was among the final two or three considered for the pending supreme court vacancy. In November, however, Horowitz wrote a controversial decision upholding the right to protest the Viet Nam war by affixing a peace symbol on the American flag and hanging it upside down from an apartment window. Whether his opinion became a factor remains unclear, but his Democratic background did not make him an altogether attractive appointee for Republican Governor Evans. In any event, on December 20, Evans appointed Judge Robert Utter, Horowitz’s court of appeals colleague and close friend.
In June 1974, Chief Justice Frank Hale announced his retirement from the high court upon completion of his six-year term in January, 1975. The first open seat in two decades attracted five election contenders: Superior Court Judge Francis Holman, Court of Appeals Judge Harold J. Petrie, Tacoma attorney Robert Comfort, former Seattle councilman Liem Tuai, and Charles Horowitz. The latter announced his candidacy in early July after several people urged him to run, including Arnie Weinmeister, head of the state Teamsters Union. In 1954 Horowitz had successfully represented Weinmeister, a former All American football player at the University of Washington and all-pro tackle with the New York Giants, in a pro football contract.
Horowitz’s age became a campaign issue. He would have to retire shortly before completing his full six-year term under the state’s mandatory retirement statute. He avoided direct comment on the matter, continually emphasizing his broad experience. “The real issue,” he said, “is who is best qualified for service.”
Horowitz received the top rating in the state bar’s preferential poll and had strong backing from Weinmeister’s Teamsters. He survived the September balloting, leading his nearest rival, Liem Tuai by more than 12,000 votes. Both moved to the final November election.
Again, Horowitz stuck to his credentials theme and again won an overwhelming majority in the state bar poll, but that hardly assured victory. Before the campaign ended, Horowitz and his supporters spent $72,853, constituting the largest amount invested to that date in a state judicial race. His efforts succeeded; he turned back Tuai’s challenge in November, 498,917 to 377,445 votes. On January 13, 1975, Charles Horowitz took his oath of office as justice of the Washington Supreme Court.
Justice Horowitz quickly assumed a moderating role on the court. Although generally a liberal on economic and individual rights issues, he often eschewed liberalism to provide a restraining influence on his colleagues. He willingly recognized the policy role of the court and the importance of personal values in a judge’s decision, frequent hallmarks of liberal judges. But he also accepted the Holmes/Brandeis/Frankfurter restraintist tradition. In an article written shortly before his retirement, the justice gave shape to this view:
[U]nstated premises and assumptions are ordinarily not thought of as sources of law: Yet, within the area of his permitted discretion, a judge’s scheme of values, notions of duty, devotion to logic, personal background and experiences, overall philosophy, and notions of public policy, morality and ethics all have a bearing upon the choices he makes in adopting one mode of reasoning rather than another to justify his decision.
In espousing the ideology adopted nearly a century earlier by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Horowitz restated the approach of the legal realists of the 1920s and the judicial behavioralists of more modern times, recognizing that personal values and non-legal factors often entered into a judge’s decisions, compelling him to act with care.
Horowitz’s view of judges’ roles reflected his behavior on the bench. For example, he reluctantly dissented. He saw little value in dissenting unless he believed it an important principle or unless he could win the majority to his side. Failing this, he acquiesced to the majority or simply voted with another dissenter’s opinion.
Still, his first recorded opinion was a dissent in which he chastised the majority for not adhering “to its own admonitions that the court is not a super-legislature; that [it] is not at liberty to substitute its own wisdom for that of the legislature.”
A law clerk described how Horowitz reached his decisions:
He would first make up his mind on what he felt would be the correct result, which on hard cases would sometimes take quite a while. The Judge was open to suggestions and discussion during this time. After he made up his mind on the correct result, his whole energy was devoted to making his point of view as persuasive as possible, through gathering authority to back his point, formulating arguments and marshalling evidence in the case … The goal was to win a majority, whether 9-0 or 5-4.
The justice could, on the one hand, become irritated at his colleagues for misreading the intent of legislators; yet on the other hand he could quickly and decisively strike down a state action that threatened individual rights. During his first year on the bench he wrote the important opinion giving “teeth” to the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. Indeed, the enactment he upheld, Article 31 of the state constitution, even more thoroughly protected women’s rights than the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
To summarize the 270 opinions Justice Horowitz wrote during the six years he served on the high bench would be formidable, but two characteristics are evident. First, Horowitz’s desire to research the law meant that no relevant authority would go uninvestigated. He consulted law review articles, encyclopedia, treatises, histories, and sometimes ancient authorities. Reading the justice’s footnotes often is as educational as his text. Second, the justice believed history to be important. Much like Justice Hugo Black of the nation’s high court, Horowitz provided attorneys, other judges, and students of the law with a thorough review of the history of a particular legal issue or constitutional doctrine.
Perhaps the major impact of Justice Horowitz on the court and his colleagues came from his scholarship and frank recognition of the responsibilities of judging. Justice James M. Dolliver, who sat with the judge for five of his six years, described these lasting legacies:
A report on a case by Charlie Horowitz was a magisterial performance. What preparation! While I have always tried to be prepared on my own cases and those of other judges, when I compare my degree and quality of preparation to that of Charlie’s I am as a grasshopper to the ant. Notebooks bulging with information: the full text of cases, observations of textbook and law review writers, an ominous stack of reports and a step-by-step analysis of the matter before us.
Accompanying the scholarship was a recognition of the role of values. In the words of Justice Dolliver, “He helped me to understand not only the need for and necessity of values in decision making, but also that a judge should not be ashamed of or try to hide the importance of values.” This recognition teaches judges humility. Awareness of the court’s policy role as well as one’s personal values prevents a judge from exercising power without responsibility. In this area, Justice Charles Horowitz “set a standard for the court that will serve it well.”
On March 23, 1930, Charles married Diana Glickman and they had two children, Caroline Ann and Elinor Louise. On December 31, 1980 Justice Horowitz stepped down from the state’s court of last resort. At age seventy-five he returned to his old law firm in Seattle and began again the practice of law. On March 25, 1989 the eighty-four year old justice passed away.
“Dedication to the Honorable Charles Horowitz,” Washington Law Review, vol. 56 (1981), pp. 162-178; C. W. Taylor, Eminent Judges and Lawyers of the Northwest (1954), p. 97; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 19 Sept. 1974 and 27 Mar. 1989; Jenifer A. Lewis, “Profile: Justice Charles Horowitz,” Seattle-King County Bar Bulletin (Nov. 1987), pp. 5, 32.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.