SAN DIEGO, Calif. Judge Clifford J. Wallace, a former stake president, regional representative, bishop and member of the San Diego Temple presidency, has been a distinguished and compassionate servant of the law for more than 50 years. In recognition of his remarkable career, he received the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award at a special presentation at the Spreckels Theatre here on Thursday, Oct. 19.
The award, named for the late Edward J. Devitt, longtime chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, is administered by the American Judicature Society. Given annually, it honors Article III judges those nominated by the President of the United States, confirmed by the Senate and appointed for life "whose careers have been exemplary, measured by their significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law and the improvement of society as a whole."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve joined a distinguished panel of speakers paying tribute to Brother Wallace's extraordinary career of judicial service. Nearly a thousand civic leaders, members of the bar, fellow judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court, family and members of the Church whose lives have been touched by Brother Wallace attended the ceremony.
Elder Oaks, in his address, spoke of the value of judicial independence and spirit of moderation in knowing the difference between right and wrong. He said, "For many of us, our commitment to morality, law and the constitutional order trace to religious faith. In that view, the protection and promotion of religious observance is the most important maintenance we can give to the foundations of our society. Judge Wallace and I share a religious faith that affirms our belief in obeying and sustaining the law. When we were young men, we were greatly influenced by the words of our Church president, David O. McKay, who explained this article of faith as follows:
"'We obey the law from a sense of right. We honor the law because of its necessity and strength to society. We sustain law by keeping it in good repute."'
Brother Wallace was elevated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1972 and served for 24 years as an active judge on the nation's largest federal appellate court, the last five in an executive role as chief circuit judge.
Since taking semi-retired "senior status" in 1996, he has continued to hear appeals and fulfill other court duties, while finding time for increasing travel overseas to promote the rule of law in developing countries around the world. Since taking senior status 10 years ago, he has spent about half his time on the effort. To date, he has worked directly with judiciaries in more than 50 countries on nearly every continent. He currently chairs a Ninth Circuit committee focused on educational and training opportunities for judges and court staff in the island nations of the South Pacific and helped obtain significant federal funding from Congress for that effort.
The award was presented by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who chaired a three-member panel that selected Brother Wallace for the award.
In paying homage to Brother Wallace, Justice Kennedy referred to the tenth commandment from Edward J. Devitt's booklet "Ten Commandments for the New Judge" "Pray for divine guidance," acknowledging that "Judge Wallace has been known among his colleagues as a man of integrity and unwavering faith."
In accepting the award, Brother Wallace, hoarse with laryngitis, recounted his career in San Diego and acknowledged the contributions of his colleagues, more than 60 law clerks, his family and his faith as integral to his career and a life filled with service.
He resides in the San Diego North Stake with his wife, Dixie Jenee Wallace. He has 15 children, 51 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.