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February 2: Judge David Finkel

February 2, 2016

img_0069David Finkel, a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and a city council member in Santa Monica, California, was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1932. Finkel was a lifelong progressive who participated in Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 and stayed to work as a civil rights attorney throughout the following year. During the Vietnam War, he actively represented conscientious objectors, and in the late 1970s he was arrested as a protester at a Nevada nuclear testing site. Finkel was a founding member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, an influential organization in the “socialist republic of Santa Monica,” as the city has been nicknamed, and he was elected to the city’s Rent Control Board in 1981 and 1983. According to the Santa Monica Lookout, “His legal career began early when he was forced to defend himself against the U.S. government after refusing to sign a loyalty oath while in the Army. Earlier Finkel’s mother [an attorney, as was his father] had been brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Signing the loyalty oath would have forced Finkel to... in effect renounce his own mother...” The case “eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Finkel successfully argued that ‘a son should not be forced to choose between the 10th Amendment to honor country and the 10th Commandment to honor family.’ ”

“Finkel served as the president of the Pacifica Foundation in the 1970s during a time of social upheaval in the country. Pacifica was the first listener-sponsored radio station in the nation... During his tenure, two local radio stations in the network received recordings from Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Finkel provided leadership for the Foundation when Will Lewis was jailed for not turning over the tapes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” —“Honoring the Life of Judge David B. Finkel